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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hasta Luego, Douchebag

The Assistant Secretary of State for Preventing Democracy in Latin America, Roger Noriega, has announced his resignation. Noriega has been imperial point man for the failed attempts to overthrow the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, as well as the "successful" overthrow of the elected government of Haiti (successful in the sense that Iraq is successful). He will be sorely missed by no one outside of the Bush administration and the lunatic Cuban exile community in Miami.

Rumor is that Noriega was miffed by Condiliar's appointment of a Cuba transition coordinator.

Other rumors that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez arranged to have loud music aimed at Noriega's house for three days running could not be substantiated.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Corruption that might have even shocked Mark Twain

Billmon has a lengthy comment on the CAFTA bribe-aganza. Excerpt:
You can't take the U.S. Capitol to Texas -- although God knows I expect the gang to try one of these days. But you can bring Texas to the Capitol, and that's exactly what the Dixiepublicans have done. I guess it serves us Yankees right for losing the Civil War.

How low can they go? Well they've got the limbo stick about six inches off the ground as it is -- but I'll give you good odds that DeLay and his White House cronies are flexible enough to slide under it.

Until I was 40?

AWol even lies in comic strips:

George Worthless Bush turned 40 in 1986, which was the year Harken Energy bought out his little failure of an company, Spectrum Oil, and gave him a high-paying, low-work seat on the board. After that, Poppy's pals arranged a lucrative buyout of his soon-to-fall Harken stock, helped him buy a portion of the Texas Rangers, got him elected governor of Texas, arranged a lucrative buyout of his Rangers' share, got him the Repug nomination for president, almost got him elected (but made up for it by getting him appointed) in 2000, gave him the Senate in 2002, gave him his war in 2003, bought his re-selection in 2004, and are covering for his every screwup and crime to this very day.

Just goes to show that without hard work or intelligence, any rich kid with connections can get ahead in America.

Regime change--not just for the US anymore?

Apparently there's some bad blood in eastern Europe:
[President of Belarus] Mr Lukashenko - fearful of the pro-democracy tumult that unseated regimes in Ukraine and Georgia - claims Warsaw is spearheading a western plot to destabilise Belarus and foment a revolution to forestall his re-election next year.

The Polish president, Alexander Kwasniewski, dismisses the claims as absurd, and is calling for EU support to isolate Mr Lukashenko and aid the struggling opposition.
So Kwasniewski says the claim is absurd, and goes on to say that it is substantially correct.

Of course, Kwasniewski still has much to learn from the master. Condiliar just appointed a new Cuba Transition Coordinator.


The price of oil didn't go down far this time around, and now it's on its way back up. The imminent passage of the Cheney energy boondoggle means there's little hope for America's seemingly insatiable demand to be reined in any time soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Supreme Court Nominee

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour made the following statement at the sentencing of the so-called "millenium bomber (emphasis added):"
I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete.
This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Via Left I.


Why do Republicans hate Republicans?
A bitterly fought trade accord with six Latin American nations won House passage by the narrowest of margins Thursday morning after Republicans held the vote open well past the usual 15 minutes to muster enough members of their party to ensure approval.

When time for the vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement expired at 11:17 p.m. local time, the nays outnumbered the yeas by 180 to 175. But, a few minutes past midnight, the GOP leadership, ignoring Democratic protests that the rules were being violated, had rounded up enough votes to win by 217 to 215.

The House vote was effectively the last hurdle - and by far the steepest - facing CAFTA, which will tear down barriers to trade and investment between the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said the Bush administration and Republican leaders strong-armed Republican House members into voting for CAFTA. He said they used highway funds and the threat of stripping chairmanships from Republican House members if they didn't support CAFTA.

"I've seen the Republican leadership break arms on close votes before, but nothing quite this ugly," Pomeroy said.
It sounds like North Carolina was the key battleground state. Rep. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones continued his delightful anti-Bush stance:
"CAFTA is NAFTA's ugly cousin," said Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., who said he was speaking on behalf of "the 200,000 North Carolinians who have lost their jobs due to NAFTA."
Two other Republicans from North Carolina tried to vote "No," but Rep. Charles Taylor's vote wasn't counted, and Rep. Robin Hayes voted "No" before he was pummelled into voting for CAFTA:
In the end a 40-minute delay in the vote was broken after the Republican leadership convinced Representative Robin Hayes of North Carolina to switch his vote to yes.

"Unfortunately, as with past trade votes, Republican leadership held the roll open for an hour and twisted arms," said Representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who led Democratic opposition to the agreement. "They got people to break their commitments and go back on their word."
Josh Marshall has a discussion thread going on the "vote."

Also, the 15 "Democrats" who voted for CAFTA and richly deserve to join the tens of thousands of Americans who will lose their jobs because of this bill.

Problem solved

Some newspapers refused to carry Tuesday's Doonesbury cartoon because of its use of aWol's "colorful" nickname for Karl Rove:

Well, Corky Trinidad has fixed the problem:

Why I'm a small-time blogger and Garry Trudeau is famous

I don't think big enough. Here's what I wrote two weeks ago:
My niece asked me what I thought Bush would do about Karl Rove. I said that if history is any indication, Bush will promote him. Torture Gonzales goes to the Supreme Court and Rove becomes AG.
But Trudeau knows how to really push the envelope:

Why you should read the comics every day

It's true! How did I miss that two weeks ago when it happened?

Titanic Water Slide

Via This Modern World. Made in China, of course.

Hail to the Victors!

Michigan wins 2005 North American Solar Challenge. The car averaged 46.2 mph over the 2500-mile race. Since the rules didn't allow speeding, the goal was to be able to travel at highway speeds as much as possible. The UM team did this better than anyone else.

This is democracy?

CAFTA passes in the House, in a way similar to how difficult constipation passes--and the results stink just as bad:
After one of the hardest-fought legislative battles of the year, Republican leaders were able to cut enough political deals to overcome fears among many of their own members about foreign competition and push ahead despite opposition from most Democrats, labor unions and the sugar industry's powerful lobby.

The vote, 217 to 215, came almost a month after the Senate approved the trade pact and gave Mr. Bush a crucial victory that had seemed in doubt a few days ago. As recently as Tuesday, fewer than half of Republican lawmakers had publicly endorsed the pact and almost all Democrats were planning to vote against it.

But the end result did not come without some drama. The voting took almost an hour as Republicans pressured about 8 to 10 members. The count seemed to stall after about 30 minutes with the tally at 214 in favor and 211 against, and a handful of votes outstanding.

For the next half-hour, Republicans, mostly from textile states, jockeyed over who would be allowed to vote against the bill and save face back home. The final count came minutes after midnight.

Within minutes after the vote, the White House released a statement from Mr. Bush praising the action. "By lowering trade barriers to American goods in Central American markets to a level now enjoyed by their goods in the U.S.," he said in the statement, "this agreement will level the playing field and help American workers, farmers and small businesses."
Basically, the top 0.1% of the population in each of the countries involved will get even richer, while the rest will get poorer. NAFTA has been a DISASTA, especially for working Americans and Mexicans, and CAFTA will be too.

Bush and the Repug "leaders" hate us. The only plus to this caCAFTAphre is that it may cause a bunch of Repug congresscritters to lose their seats next year. An even bigger downside is that our evil pResident will do ANYTHING to prevent that, including starting several more wars.

I understand why the Bushes, Clintons and Kerrys support so-called "free trade"--there's lots of money in it for them. What I don't get is why anyone else does. The race to the bottom ends at the bottom.

It will be interesting to find out how many bribes and threats were used to get this result, after the Nick Smith fiasco on the Medicare bill. Unfortunately, we never will.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

End of the bronze age

Photo by Stefano Paltera/North American Solar Challenge. Caption:
Western Michigan University's solar car, "Sunseeker" blazes by a gas station without stopping outside of Walsh, Alberta, Canada, while on Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) on its way to the final checkpoint in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Nice little fruit stand you've got here...Hate to see anything happen to it...

From the LA Times:
Among the allegations now under investigation is that at least six soldiers from the [California National Guard 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment] took part in a scheme to extort money from Iraqi shopkeepers, apparently in exchange for protection from insurgents.

The payments allegedly exceeded $30,000, two sources said, and were made in U.S. currency, according to one member of the battalion who has been briefed on the investigation. Another soldier said the scheme allegedly was carried out during night patrols in the Baghdad area.
Admittedly, small potatoes compared to their commander-in-chief's extorting the American public into paying billions of dollars to Halliburton, Bechtel and others to "protect" us from Saddam Hussein giving weapons he didn't have to terrorists he didn't know, which of course would have resulted in mushroom clouds over Poughkeepsie and Peoria. Still, one more answer to the question "Why do they hate us?"

Michigan wins!

UM's MomentUM solar car is the winner of the North American Solar Challenge, crossing the finish line 45 seconds ahead of Minnesota, basically preserving the 11-minute lead they had starting the day. The best $32 I've spent in a while! On to Australia! (You can help them get there!)

Oppose, you morons! It's popular!!

From USA Today:
For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading.
Unfortunately, the 51% doesn't seem to include the idiots at the Democratic Leadership Council--the Clintonites who brought us Repug majorities in both houses of Congress, NAFTA, welfare "reform," support for Bush's criminal wars, and, maybe worst of all, John Kerry. If we don't push these clowns out of the way, Hillary is going to lose to Jeb in 2008.

Reading List

Someone named L. Caluzzi has assembled an Amazon reading list of books about the American Empire and other crimes. I've read a few of them--recommended are The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11,
American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, and Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. I'm neutral on Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, since it veered off into so many tangents that I was unable to finish it, and I positively could not stand Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

But most of the books look very interesting, and this should be a great starting point if you're wondering what to read next.

On to Calgary!

The Michigan Solar Car's legal team seems to have helped MomentUM preserved its 11-minute lead over Minnesota heading into today's final leg of the North American Solar Challenge 2005. The rules of the race require that the cars stay within the speed limit, with penalties charged for speeding. Race officials were going to charge UM with 40 minutes of penalties, but the team put together 55 pages of data from the car and elsewhere proving that MomentUM was never speeding. Apparently radar picked up the chase vehicle temporarily over the speed limit a few times, and blamed it on the solar car.

Today, the rules should work completely in UM's favor. Being the leader, they'll leave Medicine Hat one minute before Minnesota. This means that before Minnesota can make up the 11-minute deficit, they'll have to pass Michigan. If Michigan can stay at the speed limit all the way to Calgary, Minnesota won't be able to pass them within the rules. And the UM car has already shown that it's the one best able to maintain speed against the western Canadian headwinds.

Raycing resumes at 8 am MDT, or 10 am EDT--a little over an hour from now. Go Blue!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quote du Jour

From Lewis Black on the Daily Show:
President Bush has declined to speak at the NAACP for five years running due to scheduling conflicts. Which is true! The last five years, he's been busy scheduling conflicts.


Clueless and Dangerous

Our People's Chamber of Deputies, that is:
CARACAS, Jul 21 (IPS) - The Venezuelan Congress approved a resolution opposing a decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to finance radio and TV broadcasts to Venezuela with the aim of countering Telesur, a new pan-Latin American station.

Telesur, a Venezuelan government initiative undertaken in association with Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, has already drawn the wrath of the United States even before it goes on the air this Sunday.

The U.S. lower house of Congress passed an amendment Wednesday "to initiate radio and television broadcasts that will provide a consistently accurate, objective, and comprehensive source of news to Venezuela" to counter Telesur's "anti-Americanism," in the words of Republican Rep. Connie Mack of Florida, who sponsored the amendment.

Telesur will begin to broadcast from Caracas on Jul. 24, the anniversary of the birth of South American independence leader Simón Bolívar.

The station's goal is to foment regional integration with newscasts, films, documentaries and music by Latin American and Caribbean producers, and to provide a counterweight to programming from the United States, like what is offered by CNN.

"It is a preposterous imperialist idea that should not surprise us because we know what the U.S. government is capable of," said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, referring to the amendment. "There is nothing more dangerous than a desperate giant."

If the amendment makes it through the Senate and Washington tries to interfere with Venezuela's airwaves, "we will take measures to neutralise the attempt, and what we will have is a kind of electronic warfare," said the left-leaning leader.
Mack clearly knows nothing, probably less than nothing, about Venezuela. If he knew anything, he would know that almost all of the major media in Venezuela is controlled by opponents of Chavez. These papers and TV stations constantly run anti-Chavez screeds. Most of them are probably already funded in part by our tax dollars through such sham organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy. And Mack seems to think that we need some sort of "Radio Free Venezuela" beamed into a country that has a more vibrant and functioning democracy than our own, where the president takes the side of the poor majority. They already get CNN down there--how much more propaganda does Mack want?

The arrogance of this is both incredible and appalling. The Repugs, who bought, stole, lied and gerrymandered their way into power in this country, think that gives them the right to rule the world. Hugo Chavez is willing to stand up and tell them that it doesn't.

Ya basta.

Solar Lawn Mower

Husqvarna makes a solar-powered, self-propelled, self-STEERED lawn mower.

I think I actually saw one of these (or maybe one of these) just down the street from my house--I've got to go check it out!

Unfortunately, the mower seems only to be available in Europe, and costs over $2500. Oh well; lawns are so 20th-century anyway.

Add to the reading list

I just read a review on the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) web site of a book by Pierre Chomat: Oil Addiction: The World in Peril. Unfortunately, the book doesn't appear to be available at either the Ann Arbor or UM libraries. Here's what the ASPO review says:
[Ex-oilman Chomat] introduces the term Ergamine (or energy slave) to refer to the energy released by fossil fuels. One gram of oil gives as much energy as a manual labourer can deliver in a day’s work. He quotes some nice examples: a plane load of tourists, flying from California to see the Great Pyramid of Egypt, consume as much energy as was used in building it. Running a domestic clothes-washer consumes as much energy as it would take a crane to lift the house 23 feet into the air. He points out how Modern Man is barely conscious of the massive amount of energy he consumes in the daily life during this most exceptional epoch in history. He links this dependence with recent geopolitical events and the posturing of governments incapable of facing the reality of what unfolds.
The reviews at Amazon are all five-star!

I'm currently reading Matthew Simmons' book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, which goes into a lot of detail about why predictions of continued and growing Saudi oil output are almost certainly bunk--and since the Saudis have been the only basis for pretending that peak oil isn't imminent, well, the book makes a pretty good case that peak oil IS imminent. It certainly gives plenty of technical detail about the Saudi oil industry that I can throw in the face of anyone who thinks we can just keep on wasting oil forever, and it has the dubious advantage of having been written by someone who is supposedly a friend of George W. Bush. Simmons' book wasn't available at the library, so I bought it at Borders. It's not bad, but now I'm wishing that I'd bought Chomat's book instead!

I'll have to consolidate my peak-oil book reviews, now that I've read five or six of them! Maybe later...

From Etta Hulme.

From Tom Toles.

"War on Terror" is over!

Monday, July 25, 2005


From the Guardian:
Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant "superweed", the Guardian can reveal.

The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.

The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects.
Monsanto and the other purveyors of frankenfoods have unleashed a beast which may be impossible to stop. GM crops threaten biodiversity, our food supply in general, and possibly even life on the planet. Sign the Organic Consumers Association's Millions Against Monsanto petition.

I wonder if the people at Monsanto have been genetically modified to be ultra-double-super evil. As the OCA says:
If you're talking about PCBs, Agent Orange, Bovine Growth Hormone, water privatization, biopiracy, untested/unlabeled genetically engineered organisms, or persecuting small family farmers, you're talking about the Monsanto Corporation.

First place!

It looks like the UM solar car "MomentUM" more than made up a 29-minute deficit, and is now sitting pretty in Medicine Hat, Alberta with a 12-minute lead over their nearest rivals, Minnesota. The final leg of the race, Medicine Hat to Calgary, will be Wednesday, and according to one commenter the car should be able to make it all the way on batteries. The UM car apparently is excelling against fairly strong Canadian headwinds. Photos from the start of the race in Austin, TX are here.

Tour de Lance

From USA Today:
"Lance is an incredible inspiration to people from all walks of life, and he has lifted the spirits of those who face life's challenges," Bush said Friday.
"Funding is tough to come by these days," [Armstrong] says. "The biggest downside to a war in Iraq is what you could do with that money. What does a war in Iraq cost a week? A billion? Maybe a billion a day? The budget for the National Cancer Institute is four billion. That has to change. It needs to become a priority again.

"Polls say people are much more afraid of cancer than of a plane flying into their house or a bomb or any other form of terrorism. It is a priority for the American public."
For once, aWol is right. Lance Armstrong raised my spirits with that quote! Of course, I agree with what Eli at Left I says:
I'm sure that the families of the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, Americans, and others, and the hundreds of thousands of seriously wounded might disagree that the money is the "biggest downside", but that fact that Armstrong not only understands the corollary of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on war, but is willing to speak out on the subject, is a good thing.
Unfortunately, according to Eli, only USA Today mentioned Lance's Iraq quote. That's one more mention, it seems, than Canadian soccer star Dwayne de Rosario got for his quote condemning the US attack on Afghanistan right after he had scored the game-winning goal for the San Jose Earthquakes when they won the 2001 MLS Cup. ABC cut de Rosario off pretty quick, but he got the message out. Unfortunately, Google seems to indicate now that it never happened. This post is, in part, an attempt to rectify that!

Beware the Delta 6250

Tupperware is apparently supposed to be the new weapon of mass destruction:
Peter Clarke, the head of London's anti-terrorism police, also said there were "clear similarities" between the four failed bombs used on three subway trains and a bus and a fifth device found in a park in northwest London last Saturday.

As he spoke at a briefing for reporters, at which no questions were permitted, he produced an example of a plastic, white-lidded Delta 6250 container of a type that he said is made in India and sold in around 100 British outlets. Investigators have long maintained that the bombs used both in London's deadly July 7 attacks and last Thursday were relatively crude home-made devices.

Get out!!!

Billmon writes about how Iran seems to be winning Bush Quagmire II, the Mess-o-potamia. The Sunnis don't want the Shiites to rule, but can't do much about it except blow up things, and the Kurds, who provide the only effective Iraqi army, don't really want to be Iraqi's anyway. He also discusses the possibility of withdrawal:
From the viewpoint of U.S. foreign policy, a speedy withdrawal from Iraq might indeed be the wisest course, as I've already suggested. But for the Iraqis -- or rather, the various peoples who are still called Iraqis -- the benefits are more debatable. A civil war that rages around and through empty American military bases isn't likely to be any less savage because those bases are empty.

In the end, it may not make that much difference whether U.S. troops stay or go. The various factions don't seem to be having much trouble slaughtering each other even when the bases are manned. Withdrawal might only speed up the carnage a little -- while giving the American public an even greater excuse to ignore it.

Billmon suggests that it's morally reprehensible to have made such a huge mess and then leave, and I guess he's right. But, when you have repeatedly shown that you have no ability (or even interest?) in fixing the mess, and everything you do just makes it worse, it is even more reprehensible to stay. We were wrong to invade Iraq, and every day we stay makes us more wrong.

First through Swift Current!

The UM Solar Car team (MomentUM) is exploring the metropolises (metropoli?) of Saskatchewan, and doing it before Minnesota (Borealis III) and MIT (Tesseract). The race is headed west, towards Medicine Hat and the finish line in Calgary.

Back-to-School the No-Wal-Mart Way!

Another victim of the "war on terror"

Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, shot and killed by plain-clothes London police on Friday.

The Israelis have generally killed three or four Palestinians for every Israeli killed by suicide bombers. The US has killed far more people in Afghanistan than were killed on 9/11, and if you buy Bush's BS about Iraq being part of the "war on terror," the ratio goes off the charts. Apparently the Brits don't want to get outdone here, using techniques learned from the Israelis, because their brutal methods have clearly shut down terrorism (sarcasticon goes here).

Xymphora has been following all the lies and counterlies and other nonsense coming out of London since 7/7, including this brutal assassination in the Tube. Basically, these plain-clothes "cops" chased this unarmed Brazilian from his apartment. Clearly frightened, and possibly not aware that they were cops, he ran to the Tube trying to get away. They tracked him down and shot him five times in the head. If they had really thought he was a suicide bomber, they had many opportunites to bring him down (shot to the leg, anyone?) before he got to the Tube where his supposed bomb could have killed dozens, including the cops who shot him. It seems basically inexplicable, until you read Dianne's comment at Xymphora (lack of punctuation as in the original):
xymphora says de Menezes was "picked at random" and I don't think I buy it

don't think this is even racially motivated

don't believe a word about the details of the "chase" because I don't think there was one

he was executed - why is the question

and the denials that it is directly linked with the bombings is an interesting denial, coming from perpetrators or coverers-up of perpetrators

no, i do not think de menezes killed dozens of commuters deliberately and in cold blood all by himself or even in collusion

but perhaps he knew on some level that it wasn't the bombers either - there is something very devious about his death, something very much on the order of a warning to others in a position to give evidence

it's likely to be the killing of a witness
Maybe it was supposed to look like a "suicide," Gary Webb style, but de Menezes heard them coming and ran. He may well have seen something that could have blown the Brits' official story, and Tony Blair, completely out of the water.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Track the solar car race!

They're headed for Medicine Hat, Alberta, turning rays into miles! This site lets you track the progress--it currently shows U of M's "MomentUM" in second place, although comments on the team's blog say they're actually in first place. Go Blue!

[Update, a few minutes later] The tracking site now shows UM with a lead--comments on the blog suggest the previous second place was just a GPS glitch.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Friedman's just another word for something dumb to say

Along the lines of my disgust with Globaloney Tom's absurd screed from yesterday, the WSWS points out not only the vileness of his op-ed, but the hypocrisy of it as well.

Friedman yesterday:
After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.
WSWS, today:
Friedman’s statements are all the more contemptible given that he himself predicted that the war might lead to attacks. In a column published on December 8, 2002 Friedman wrote that it was necessary to prepare people “to deal with the blowback any US invasion will produce.” He stated that if the war is not managed correctly, and the right justifications are not put in the forefront, the United States would be seen as an aggressor and “the world will become an increasingly dangerous place for every American.”
WSWS continues:
Friedman has a personal interest in preventing any serious discussion of responsibility for the consequences of the war, inasmuch as he was one of those who employed his position as an opinion-maker to justify the invasion of Iraq. He knew that the Bush administration’s case for war consisted of lies, or what he once called “phony reasons.”

While peddling every one of the administration’s lies on one occasion or another, Friedman himself has focused on two causes. He has more than once acknowledged that the war was waged, at least in part, to secure control of Persian Gulf oil resources. On January 5, 2003 he wrote, “Any war we launch in Iraq will certainly be—in part—about oil... I have no problem with a war for oil.”
In his column he denounces “those who spread hate,” saying he wants to compile a list of “those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.” These people must be exposed, he says, because “words matter.”

Yes, words do matter, and Thomas Friedman is one of those who bear political and moral responsibility for the American and Iraqi deaths caused by the policies that he has so dishonestly and cynically advocated and condoned.
Amen to that. Friedman is truly one of the most despicable characters in America today.

More art fair selections

I can't deny it--I have strange tastes! A few more of the artists I liked from the art fair:

Toby Atticus Fraley with his old appliance sculptures, like this vacuum cleaner-rocketship lamp.

Lingering Before the Departure, from James A. Skvarch, who has all sorts of cool and bizarre etchings.

Birth of Bush, from Steve Shepard, a passionate Bush-hater from Mississippi. He and his wife will talk politics all day--I remember talking to them either last year or the year before. If you want a good chuckle or some pointed color for your blog, check out all the stuff he's got on his web site.

Bicycle Path, from Kathleen Eaton.

I don't find these quite as fascinating as Cyndy does, but Marc Sijian's incredibly life-like sculptures always draw a big crowd:

Cyndy also discovered another local blog, .:DataWhat?:., which has a great post about the art fair experience:

Most amazing excuse yet

I just got back from a second and last trip to this year's art fair. On my way back to the bus stop, I passed through the non-profit area one more time, dropping some good words and a couple of more bucks on the Amnesty International people. I was then going to head down to the Michigan Peaceworks and ACLU booths when I heard someone call my name. This guy I know, Matt, from the UM Ballroom Dance Club was sitting at the Republican Party table, looking to pick a fight. (He's actually usually a nice guy--he just has this dark Repug side to him.) He knew he'd get a fight from me, since I had given him some anti-war flyers a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I was pointing out that Bush had lied us into a war and made things worse by doing so. Matt replied with this brilliant argument: The "weapons of mass destruction" on 9/11 were the terrorists themselves; Saddam Hussein had been exporting terrorists (i.e. "WMD's") for years; and these were the WMD's that Bush was really talking about. I told Matt that Bush talked about uranium from Africa and anthrax and pilotless planes, not young men, as being the reason for starting the war. Matt says "that's just a cover, and that I have a 'hardware' fixation."

I remember wondering back in 2003 if Matt would admit his error if it were eventually proven that Bush was lying about everything. I guess now I know.

Bush/Cheney: It's not a lie, it's a cover!

From Chris Britt.

From Tom Toles.

With opponents like these...

I am particularly interested in and supportive of the nomination of Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy ... I believe that she is highly qualified because of her professional background, and, importantly, enjoys the full confidence of the president and the secretary of state.

She will bring new energy and creativity to our public diplomacy efforts. I commend the president for choosing her and persuading her to return to Washington, and I look forward to working with her for the next three years on this important foreign policy priority.
--Senator Joe Biden (formerly D-DE), quoted by Billmon.

I guess Joe figures that years of lying to the American public on behalf of Bush makes Hughes especially qualified to lie to the Muslim world on behalf of Bush.

Quote du Jour

Is fighting the 'war on terror' so much fun that it is worth living in fear for the rest of your life?
--Xymphora, commenting on the brutal killing of an apparently unarmed man in the London Underground:
Asking Israel for advice on how to deal with this problem is particularly funny. I understand why Israel does what it does: it wants to create terrorism so it can use its state terrorism in 'self defense' to eventually drive the Palestinians off the Occupied Territories. But why would the British want to go down this sorry road? With each incident the problem is made worse, and it will take years and years to undo the damage.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Solar Car Race!

The University of Michigan's Solar Car is currently in second place in a cross-country (actually cross-countries) solar car race. Today, they're resting up in Winnepeg, Manitoba, in third place behind the University of Minnesota and MIT. Follow their journey on their blog!

And, hopefully, Hail to the Victors!

(Full disclosure--I think I have contributed $32 to this project.)

Daylight Savings Time Nonsense

From AP:
An agreement was reached Thursday to extend daylight-saving time in an effort to conserve energy, but not to the extent the House approved in April.

House and Senate negotiators on an energy bill agreed to begin daylight-saving time three weeks earlier, on the second Sunday in March, and extend it by one week to the first Sunday in November.
I would hope that the sponsors of the measure, Reps. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Fred Upton, R-Michigan, know that screwing around with the clocks doesn't actually change how much daylight there is, but you have to wonder when you read their quotes:
"The beauty of daylight-saving time is that it just makes everyone feel sunnier," said Markey.

Upton noted that the extension means daylight-saving time will continue through Halloween, adding to safety. "Kids across the nation will soon rejoice," said Upton, because they'll have another hour of daylight trick-or-treating.
Safer for those kids who didn't get run over that morning while walking to school in the dark, that is. And I recall that my brother and I always waited until it was dark to go trick-or-treating, and that still seems to be common practice. As far as energy savings go, people turn on the lights when it's dark, and turn up the heat when it's cold. The clock times these things happen will be an hour later, but the total number of dark and cold hours will remain exactly the same.

Hypocrite of the Millenium--Thomas Friedman

What a total Cheneying Rove Globaloney Tom is. Today he's calling for the State Department to produce an enemies list:
We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.
We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous.
By supporting the criminal invasion of Iraq, Tom and his colleague Judith Miller incited violence against others, and have served as excuse makers for the criminals ever since. And Tom, you absolutely worthless piece of Rove, stating that starting criminal wars leads to criminal bus bombings is not defending bus bombings; it is making an observation. An observation that many of us made not only before 7/7, but before 3/20 as well (3/20/03, the date of the invasion of Iraq, a far bigger terrorist crime than even 9/11).

SPECIFIC instructions for avoiding terrorist attacks

Bob Harris notes that subway bombings and the like are so frightening because they seem so completely random. He suggests the following precautions:
Be very wary of anyone or anything random around you.

If you're on the street, and some random guy walks by, don't just be a victim -- protect yourself. Run.

Any random-looking package should be considered suspicious. Point these out to police when you see them.

Random buildings will be the terrorists' next logical target. Avoid them.

If you see any random object, alert others. Scream if you must.

And if confronted by any random situation, don't do anything random in response.

This will only make things worse.

Instead, go somewhere specific. Do specific things with specific people, and await rescue.

Invasion of the Seed Snatchers

Heather Gray tells how the corporate criminals of Cargill and Monsanto invaded Iraq right along with US and British troops, forcing their evil agenda of genetically-modified organisms and patented seeds on Iraq, just as they have here in the US.

BTW, to me this is the real dark side of biodiesel--not that it isn't efficient, but that it is currently being made from agribusiness-controlled soybeans, most of them GMO's. It doesn't have to be, and it shouldn't be, but we should realize that it probably is contributing to the frankencrops takeover of the planet. Conservation, and withholding as much financial and political support as possible from agribusiness and all of the other corporate criminals should really be first principles for those of us who would really like to see a better world. Drive less. Buy less. Buy local. Buy organic. Don't eat meat. It's the only planet we've got.

Quote du Jour

I'm embarrassed to be on this side of the aisle.
-- Rep. C. L. Otter (R-ID), referring to how House Rules Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Dachau) stifled debate on rescinding some of the most noxious aspects of the "Patriot" Act.

Billmon reminds us what the "Patriot Act" is all about:

This is probably a good time to remind people what Section 215 gives the government the power to do:

  • Order any person or entity to turn over "any tangible things," so long as the FBI specifies that the order is part of an authorized terrorism or intelligence investigation.
  • Obtain personal data, including medical records, without any specific facts connecting those records to a foreign terrorist.
  • Prohibit doctors and insurance companies from disclosing to their patients that their medical records have been seized by the government.
  • Obtain library and book store records, including lists of books checked out, without any specific facts connecting the records to a foreign agent or terrorist.
  • Obtain private financial records without a court order, and without notification to the person involved.
  • Conduct intelligence investigations of both United States citizens and permanent residents without probable cause, or even reasonable grounds to believe that they are engaged in criminal activity or are agents of a foreign power.
  • Investigate U.S. citizens based in part on their exercise of their First Amendment rights, and non-citizens based solely on their exercise of those rights. (Naturally, decisions about what constitutes "in part" are left to a secret court, meeting secretly.)
  • Those served with Section 215 orders are prohibited from disclosing that fact to anyone -- even their attorney. (This provision was struck down by a U.S. district court last year.)

Section 213 of PATRIOT, meanwhile, allows federal agents to:

  • Conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of your home.
  • Enter your home or office and seize items for an indefinite period of time, without informing you that a warrant has been issued.

And Section 216 lets the feds:

Seize records that could show the subject lines of your e-mails and the details of your Web surfing habits.
It may be too late, but now would be a good time to use the ACLU's website to tell your congresscritters that you LIKE freedom and liberty and are sick and tired of Nazis like Bush and Sensenbrenner taking them away from you.


The Saudi Arabia of Money

Billmon and Krugman comment on China's decision to stop pegging its currency to the dollar.

Up until yesterday, the People's Bank had shown an almost unlimited willingness to buy dollars to maintain the yuan peg -- thus mopping up whatever dollars America's other Asian creditors, including Japan, didn't want to hold. This encouraged other emerging countries to stay in the "system," since they knew China wouldn't allow the dollar to fall too far, protecting them from big losses on their reservess.

This is the classic swing role played by the central player in any successful cartel. Thus my nickname for the People's Bank -- "the Saudi Arabia of money."

But the "Saudis" have just signaled that their ability to stabilize the market has reached its limits -- or, more precisely, that domestic economic considerations (and/or a desire to avoid U.S. trade sanctions) now outweigh the importance of stabilizing the market.

Without China as the backstop, though, the other members of the cartel would have less incentive to hold dollars -- and, logically, a greater fear that they would be left holding the bag if China eventually allowed a much bigger decline in the dollar. The longer these smaller players wait to diversify their reserves, the greater the risk that others will do it first, quietly or covertly, leaving them with heaviest losses. The classic "prisoner's dilemma."
[I]t could be the start of a process that will turn the world economy upside down - or, more accurately, right side up. That is, the free ride China has been giving America, in which the world's richest economy has been getting cheap loans from a country that is dynamic but still quite poor, may be coming to an end.

Coverups everywhere

From Ted Rall.

Nothing Left to Lose

Some quotes to ponder from Sam Smith's Progressive Review:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-- Benjamin Franklin
We come to give you liberty and equality. But don't lose your heads about it -- the first person who stirs without my permission will be shot.
-- Marshal Pierre F.J. Lefebvre, 1807
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
-Thomas Jefferson
The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are full of students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might and the Republic is in danger. Yes, danger from within and without. We need law and order. Without law and order our nation cannot survive. Elect us and we shall restore law and order.
-- Adolph Hitler, 1932

And now, today's headlines:
And now, two more quotes:
It is my impression that the Capitol is now rather more like the Kremlin during Stalin's feisty reign than a place where the citizens used to wander about and feel at home . . . We have made so many enemies all around the world that, in the name of terrorism, a quite effective police state has ever so gradually replaced the old republics. . . When the people dislike the state as much as the state dislikes them, what happens next?
-- Gore Vidal
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
-- Declaration of Independence

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Art Fair!

I spent a few hours and a few bucks this afternoon at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, which started yesterday and run through Saturday. If you want a colorful tour of Italy, it's a great place to go! Venice and Portofino seem to rank high among the most popular subjects of both painting and photography, right behind the perpetually popular doors and windows.

Here are some of the pictures I really liked:

Moonrise Meditation, from Earthtones Photography

Free Parking, from Xavier Nuez.

Two Triumphal Cats, from Michael Leu.

Chappy's Diner, from David Chapple.

Portofino, from Luciano Duce. Actually, photographer Paul C. James, from nearby Chelsea, had a photo of Portofino that I liked better, but he doesn't have it online. If you're going to the Art Fair, his booth is number B346, on Liberty not too far west of State. If you can't get to the fair, click on a few of the links above and browse. Of course, there's lots more that I've left out. Or, check out the web sites of the various art fairs that make up the art fair: The State Street Art Fair, the South University Art Fair, the Summer Art Fair, and the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.


Researchers at Purdue University designed a "tabletop" device which apparently uses ultrasound to produce nuclear fusion reactions. According to the article,
Development of a low-cost thermonuclear fusion generator would offer the potential for a new, relatively safe and low-polluting energy source. Whereas conventional nuclear fission reactors make waste products that take thousands of years to decay, the waste products from fusion plants would be short-lived, decaying to non-dangerous levels in a decade or two. For the same unit mass of fuel, a fusion power plant would produce 10 times more energy than a fission reactor, and because deuterium is contained in seawater, a fusion reactor's fuel supply would be virtually infinite. A cubic kilometer of seawater would contain enough heavy hydrogen to provide a thousand years' worth of power for the United States.
To which my skeptical mind offers a couple of responses:
  • A cubic kilometer of seawater may contain enough deuterium to power the US for 1000 years at current usage, but with the development of outdoor air conditioning, SUV's the size of the places they're named for (Yukon, Denali, Sierra), and of course the ornamental sun craze, we'll be facing peak deuterium by 2050.
  • Does this make my solar roof obsolete already?
Of course, if the Big Ten goes back to only having ten schools in it sometime soon, we'll know why.

Express kidnappings

NAFTA is really working out for Mexico. A leading futbol coach was just abducted in Mexico City:
Heavily armed kidnappers snatched the Argentine coach of one of Mexico's biggest soccer teams in broad daylight, a brash abduction that put new pressure on authorities to contain growing violent crime.

Police admitted on Wednesday they had few clues about who kidnapped Ruben Omar Romano, coach of first division Cruz Azul, by blocking a road and grabbing him from his car on Tuesday after a training session in the south of Mexico City.
Mexico ranks second in the world for kidnappings after war-hit Colombia, where many abductions are political, not purely criminal, according to Mexican victims' groups.

The country is also known for "express kidnappings," an abduction in which the victim is either taken to bank cash machines and forced to take money out or driven around while relatives are told to pay up, often the same day.

As coach of one of Mexico's top clubs, Romano could earn a monthly salary of up to $100,000, a fortune in a country where many live in poverty.
Here's a nit-picky question: Why does Reuters need to get information on the motives of Colombian kidnappers from Mexican victims' groups?

How's that "war on terror" going?

Three subways and a bus were hit by "explosions or attempts at explosions" in London today (and no, today is not 7/7). I expect a quote from Condi Rice soon: "Nobody could possibly have forseen bombings on three subways and a bus in London."

And there's this:

From CNN:
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, warned Wednesday that more terrorist attacks could be in the works in the kingdom.

The embassy issued a warden's message, or advisory, to the American community in Saudi Arabia saying that it "has received indications of operational planning for a terrorist attack or attacks in the kingdom."
Do you get the feeling that we're really "fighting them over there" for the purpose of "fighting them here?"

Why you might not want to shave your head

AWol might rub you the wrong way.

From JuliusBlog, which has a whole collection of photos documenting the presidential bald fetish.

Biodiesel Fights Back!

[Note: If you're tired of my recent biodiesel obsession, feel free to skip this post.]

The National Biodiesel Board has issued a response to the recent Pimentel/Patzek study which claims that biodiesel is a net energy loser. The NBB cites a 1998 study sponsored by the Departments of Agriculture and Energy which shows a soil-to-wheel positive energy balance (3.2:1) for soy biodiesel when used in an urban bus.

The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture and Energy are always people appointed by presidents whose first step towards nomination was the Iowa caucuses and who were elected by the electoral college (which gives inordinate weight to lightly-populated farm states), and whose nominations were confirmed by the U.S. Senate in which some fairly unimpressive farm-staters like Bob Dole and Tom Daschle have wielded large power. So it can be fairly assumed that the USDA and the DOE are going to undertake a study on biodiesel with a bit of a bias towards finding a favorable conclusion.

Still, the 314-page USDA/DOE report is far more thorough than the 12-page P&P study (of which only two pages deal with biodiesel). USDA/DOE also explain their terms in much greater detail, making the crucial distinctions which need to be made to determine whether making biodiesel from soybeans is "renewable" or even worthwhile at all. For example:
The fossil energy ratio tells us something about the degree to which a given fuel is or is not renewable. It is defined simply as the ratio of the final fuel product energy to the amount of fossil energy required to make the fuel:

Fossil Energy Ratio = Fuel Energy/Fossil Energy Inputs

If the fossil energy ratio has a value of zero, then a fuel is not only completely nonrenewable, but it provides no useable fuel product energy as a result of the fossil energy consumed to make the fuel. If the fossil energy ratio is equal to 1, then this fuel is still nonrenewable. A fossil energy ratio of one indicates that no loss of energy occurs in the process of converting the fossil energy to a useable fuel. For fossil energy ratios greater than 1, the fuel actually begins to provide a leveraging of the fossil energy required to make the fuel available for transportation. As a fuel approaches being "completely" renewable, its fossil energy ratio approaches "infinity." In other words, a completely renewable fuel has no
requirements for fossil energy.
(USDA/DOE report, p. 207)

In contrast, Pimentel and Patzek don't define their terms well, and pick and choose whatever they can find to make biodiesel look bad. For example, on page 72 of their report (it's in a journal, so page 72 is actually page 8) they say:
Sheehan and others of the Department of Energy also report a negative energy return in the conversion of soybeans into biodiesel. They report "1 MJ of biodiesel requires an input of 1.24 MJ of primary energy."
This is deception at its worst. First off, Sheehan is one of the authors of the USDA/DOE report which supports biodiesel production. More importantly, unlike P&P, the USDA/DOE report defines what is meant by "primary energy:"
Total Primary Energy. All raw materials extracted from the environment can contain energy. In estimating the total primary energy inputs to each fuel’s life cycle, we consider the cumulative energy content of all resources extracted from the environment.
(page 206)

So "primary energy" includes not only the diesel fuel to run the trucks and tractors used to grow and process the soybeans--it includes the solar energy captured by the soybean plants, and every other form of energy used in the process. P&P cite the 1.24 ratio of primary energy in to energy out as a bad thing, when in fact all it demonstrates is that biodiesel production is not a perpetual motion machine. As the USDA/DOE study points out, the real key, given our current circumstances, is the fossil energy ratio. Actually, I would expand that to be a non-renewable energy ratio, since I'm afraid that one of the main responses to both peak oil and global warming is going to be calls for using more nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the USDA/DOE study is much more careful about defining their terms and pointing out what the real issues are than are P&P.

As I see it, biodiesel wins the argument. If we hope to still have some mechanized ground and air transportation available to us in the future, we'll need energy-dense liquid fuels. We can either grow a bunch of plants and animals, let them die, and wait 50 million years or so for the earth to turn them into oil and coal, or we can grow oil-yielding plants and process them into liquid fuels today in the most efficient way possible. The USDA/DOE report makes a good case that the process can actually be quite efficient in the most important ways, while the P&P study completely fails to disprove that.

Full disclosure: My investment in biodiesel consists of a 2001 Volkswagen Golf TDI, a few stickers, and half a tank of B99 biodiesel. If I could be convinced that biodiesel was actually making things worse, I could switch to running on petrodiesel--it would be easier (more stations) and currently cheaper. But I'll say that a couple of die-hard anti-biodiesel professors have taken their best shot at biodiesel and missed completely, and I'll keep running on biodiesel unless somebody makes a much better case.

For a lengthy summary of my recent defense of biodiesel, go here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty Beamed Up

I never really watched Star Trek much, but that's the easiest headline of the day. RIP, James Doohan.

From Jim Morin.

Quote du Jour

Molly Ivins on the FBI's investigation of the ACLU:
We suffer the worst attack on this country since Pearl Harbor, and the Bush administration sends the FBI after the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU exists to protect every citizen's rights as defined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States. The ACLU works solely through the legal system: It does not advocate violence, terrorism or any other damn thing except the Bill of Rights. Since when is that extremist?

I know that sludge-for-brains like Bill O'Reilly attack the ACLU for being "un-American," but when Bill O'Reilly's constitutional rights are violated, the ACLU will stand up for him just like they did for Oliver North, Communists, the KKK, atheists, movement conservatives and everyone else they've defended over the years. The premise is easily understood: If the government can take away one person's rights, it can take away everyone's.

We are living in a time when our government is investigating an organization that stands for the highest and best American ideals. And claiming the mantle of patriotism while they are about it. This is cuckoo - and such an idiotic waste of the FBI's time and the taxpayers' money that whoever thought up this idiocy should be fired yesterday.


Distraction Accomplished

A quick search for the word "Rove" on the CNN, NY Times and Washington Post home web pages returned nothing at about 1:30 this afternoon. There doesn't even appear to be any mention of Plamegate in any form on any of those pages.

All you need to know about Roberts

Chris Floyd writes about aWol's choice for the Supreme Court, John Roberts:
[O]n July 15, a panel of federal appellate court judges upheld Bush's sovereign right to dispose of "enemy combatants" any way he pleases, the Washington Post reports. In a chilling decision, the judges ruled that the Commander's arbitrarily designated "enemies" are non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and domestic law apply to such garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted - a brutal sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a "kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to "hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."

One of the kowtowing jurists on the appeals panel was none other than John G. Roberts. Four days after he affirmed Bush's autocratic powers, Roberts was duly awarded with a nomination to the Supreme Court. Now he will be sitting in final judgment on this case - and any other challenges to Bush's peremptory commands. This is what is known, in the tyrant trade, as "a safe pair of hands."
Floyd points out that this decision, and Roberts' likely support for it as a Supreme Court "Justice," confirms America as an autocracy:
George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth - including any American citizen - an "enemy combatant," for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.
Sandra Day O'Connor gave America four years to correct her December 2000 crime, but America failed the test. And America and the world will apparently continue to pay.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another Genocider Dead

It seems rude to speak ill of the dead, but when they played a major role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, it's hard not to just say "Good riddance!" I was going to write some sort of obit for General William Westmoreland, but then I remembered that something I wrote two years ago will suffice:
I just watched the 1974 documentary Hearts & Minds. It is an amazing look at the Vietnam war and the people that it affected. It features war footage, interviews with soldiers and pilots, generals, Vietnamese villagers, and politicians. The best insights come from Daniel Ellsberg.

Director Peter Davis makes several telling points just by letting the film run on for a while. In one scene, a funeral of a South Vietnamese soldier is shown. His son holds a picture of him and wails pitifully, on and on. The soldier's mother tries to get in the grave with the coffin, but is pulled out. She cries. The son continues to cry. Soldiers shovel dirt on the coffin. The son kisses the picture, then wails some more. This goes on for minutes. When Davis finally leaves this scene, he goes to a clip of General William Westmoreland, who was commander of US forces in Vietnam for several years. Westmoreland is saying that Orientals don't see life the same way we do--that life is cheap, that they don't hold it dear.
Maybe the General will get to meet a few of those Orientals he dispatched prematurely from this mortal coil. Could be interesting.

Billmon has a much more thorough memorial to Westmoreland.

More on biodiesel

I did a little follow-up work on my biodiesel post from yesterday. The authors of the study, which unfortunately seems to be getting huge publicity, seem pretty clearly to be dead-set against biodiesel, regardless of the facts. Their "analysis" assumed high-energy inputs in both the growing of soybeans and the production of biodiesel from them, and they even made a rather obvious arithmetic error which (surprise!) supported their bias. I have adapted and commented on a couple of the tables from their article here. (The full article is not legally available publicly; I got access to it through my university connections. But I think my analysis easily falls under "fair use.")

Pay no attention to the turdblossom behind the curtain

I saw on somebody's blog yesterday (I can't remember whose) that we should expect aWol to announce a Supreme Court nominee soon, using Roe v. Wade to distract attention from Rove v. Plame. That somebody is one smart blogger!

CNN openly acknowledges its own ADD:
Any announcement would turn the spotlight in Washington toward the Supreme Court vacancy and away from news about Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and the ongoing federal probe into who leaked the name of a CIA officer.
[Update] The prescient blogger was LiberalOasis, who wrote Sunday:

Keep An Eye Out...

...for a accelerated announcement of a Supreme Court nominee, in order to change the subject.

Coalition of the Axis of Evil

TEHRAN: Iranian President Mohamed Khatami yesterday hailed a “turning point” in relations with Baghdad as Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made a historic visit to Tehran aimed at strengthening ties after decades of enmity.

Following talks with the first Iraqi head of government to visit Iran since the fall of Saddam Hussain, Khatami said that Iran was prepared to do anything it could to help its one-time foe, with whom it fought a devastating eight-year war from 1980-1988.
Jaafari, who took refuge in Iran during the rule of Saddam Hussain, visited the tomb of Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini yesterday, and paid homage by laying a wreath of flowers.
Amazing, isn't it, that these two Shiite-Muslim-majority nations would realize, 25 years after the start of the brutal Iran-Iraq war, that there's really no basis for enmity. US reaction to the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis was so overboard that President Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Iraq in September 1980, starting a war which killed hundreds of thousands (according to Wikipedia, Saddam Hussein boasted he would be in Tehran in 3 days). During the Reagan-Bush years, the U.S. armed both sides of the conflict, sending Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to offer assistance to Saddam while secretly arranging arms deals with the Iranians. Henry Kissinger seems to have summed up the real US policy: "Too bad they can't both lose." Actually, in very real ways they both did.

Now that Iran and the not-quite-puppet regime in Baghdad have realized that they really shouldn't be enemies, it probably won't take long for them to realize who their real enemy is, and has been for the past 52 years.

Billmon comments:
It would be interesting to see what kind of reaction al-Jaafari's little Tehran tete-a-tete would cause here in Great Satan Central, if it got 1/20th the coverage of Karl Rove's pimply ass. How would the folks back home feel if they knew their sons and daughters were getting limbs blown off so that Iraqi politicians could jaunt off to Tehran and say warm and fuzzy things about the crazy old man who gave us the Iranian hostage crisis?

And what kind of surrealist cover story would the GOP propaganda machine come up with to convince the Fox News audience that fighting and dying to keep Khomeini lovers in power is really a good thing?

From Pat Bagley.

From Ann Telnaes.

Isn't it the Limbaugh dance?

From Mike Lane.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Prove it: Fire Abrams!

AWol says today that he'll fire any aide who "committed a crime."

So where does that leave Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, who was convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, but was later pardoned by Poppy Bush in 1992?

Of course, most of the Bushies are criminals, but this guy has actually already been convicted!

Billmon's response to Bush's statement that he'll fire anyone who committed a crime: "But then who's going to answer the phones?"

Where has all the money gone?

Billmon writes about the enormous ongoing corruption involved in Operation Iraqi Fleecedom (or is it Iraqi Liquidation?):
A full accounting of these various swindles will, of course, never be made -- except maybe to God, if she can ever take a break from her war crimes deliberations. But it seems likely the Iraq money pit will set some kind of modern record: Instead of skimming some of the funds intended for real projects and diverting them to corrupt uses, the authors of this particular scandal appear to have taken a small fraction of the money intended for corruption and diverted it to legitimate projects.

Biodiesel and Ethanol

Yesterday, AP writer Mark Johnson published an article based on a report by two university researchers which claims that both ethanol and biodiesel require more energy to produce than they actually deliver:
[R]esearchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley say it takes 29 percent more fossil energy to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of fuel the process produces. For switch grass, a warm weather perennial grass found in the Great Plains and eastern North America United States, it takes 45 percent more energy and for wood, 57 percent.

It takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same to sunflower plants, the study found.

"Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy, or the environment," according to the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek. They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy.

The researchers included such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production, said Pimentel.
Fortunately, I have access to online resources which allowed me to find the original article by Pimentel and Patzek. Pimentel and Patzek were VERY thorough in including "such factors." As far as growing soybeans are concerned, they seem to have assumed the use of the most energy-intensive American agricultural methods, using lots of fossil-fuel powered machinery, fossil-fuel derived fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and even "transport," which a footnote explains assumes that "machinery, fuel and seeds" were shipped an estimated 1000 km. And on the production of biodiesel from soybeans side of the story, the authors included massive amounts of energy for steam, space heat, direct heat, and electricity, ignoring the possibility that such energy could easily come from the sun or wind (and how much space heat would you need if your biodiesel plant were in Texas, or if it operated only in harvest season in Michigan or Illinois?). Even with these assumed extravagances, Pimentel and Patzek are able to show only an 8% energy loss for soy-based biodiesel after grudgingly admitting that extracting the oil from soybeans leaves commercially-valuable soy meal (they claim a 32% loss when ignoring the soy meal, although these numbers somehow becomes 27% in the abstract and hence the AP article).

The Cornell web site quotes Pimentel:
The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future, but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products.
While his research seems to show that it is certainly very possible to make biodiesel and ethanol at an energy loss, it really provides no basis for claiming that biofuels, especially biodiesel, are the "wrong road." Perhaps the authors have looked at this objectively, but their research numbers certainly seem to indicate finding a result to match a pre-determined conclusion.

Now, I have no doubt that biodiesel and especially ethanol proponents have been doing the same thing on the other side of the argument for years. Federal incentives for ethanol production are living monuments to the founding fathers' error in assigning two senators to each state. But I would conclude from Pimentel and Patzek's antagonistic report not that biofuels are the wrong road, but that done properly they may actually provide most of the liquid fuel we will need in the future. That won't be anywhere near the amount we currently use (being wasted on extravagances like shipping soybean seeds 1000 km, for example). But it may be enough to run the trains and ambulances and other vehicles that a sustainable yet somewhat modern economy will actually require.

Plug-in Hybrids

The problems with gasoline-powered vehicles are that 1) they burn foreign-oil-based gasoline, and lots of it, and 2) they spew nasty stuff out of their tailpipes. The problems with electric vehicles are 1) a lot of heavy batteries are needed to give them a decent range, 2) the electricity to charge the batteries has to come from somewhere, such as coal, oil, gas or nuclear power plants (or--solar or wind!), and 3) good batteries are very expensive.

Matthew Parris pointed out last year that the real key is energy density--gasoline is more than 100 times as energy-dense as are lead-acid batteries. These are the most affordable kind of battery, used to start your car and what I'll be using to store my solar energy. The batteries I have ordered weigh a total of about 1000 pounds, and when charged will store enough energy to power my house for three to five days if I ran them all the way down (which I won't). Based on Parris' numbers, if I had 1000 pounds of gasoline stored at my house and a generator, I would be able to power my house for over a year! Of course, I can't recharge gasoline, and weight isn't a big concern for my basement floor. But weight is crucial in cars (and much more so in airplanes), and the weight of batteries is the main reason that there are very few electric vehicles on the road. Some types of batteries, like lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium, have higher energy densities, but at much higher cost.

This is where the concept of the plug-in hybrid electic vehicle (PHEV) comes in. Combining the cleanliness and the possibility of using renewable energy sources (or at least cheap off-peak electicity) of an electric with the extended range of a gasoline engine, some prototype PHEV's are now getting 144 mpg (that gallon of gas is boosted by 7 kWh of electricity--68 cents worth at current prices).

For lots more info on PHEV's and their controversial future, see this article from the LA Times or the latest issue of Home Power magazine. (They used to have the latest issue available for free download, but now it costs $5. It appears you can also wait a couple of months and download the August/September issue for free then--the June/July issue is available free now. If you've never seen Home Power and have a high-speed connection, you might enjoy downloading it.)

I've been thinking that my biodiesel-powered VW might be the last car I ever buy, but I can see a PHEV working very nicely as a dump load for my solar roof. PHEV's also will supposedly function very nicely as generators when needed, meaning I might be able to go completely off-grid, running my house AND my car on solar along with just a few gallons of gasoline (or biodiesel?) a year. The current PHEV conversions are all based on the Toyota Prius, but there's no reason that a (bio-)diesel-powered PHEV couldn't be made. The key to widespread acceptance of PHEV's, according to both articles, is low-cost lightweight batteries, which may be three to five years away.

Much more than Rove v. Wilson

A couple of people recommended Justin Raimando's Friday article to me on double super secret background (well, okay, it was Michelle and Mike). Raimando suggests that Rove v. Wilson is merely the opening sideshow to the main event--that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is on the trail of something much bigger, leading perhaps to making a criminal case out of the whole Bush-Cheney-neocon lies and deceptions which got us into the war in Iraq:
Treason is nothing to these people, because their real allegiance is not to the U.S., but to their own cause, which is perpetual war.
The fast developing scandal seemingly centered around Rove and a few journalists has only begun to unfold. By the time it is over, we'll have the War Party – or, at the very least, a few high profile representatives – in the dock, and then the fun will really begin. So forget "Rove-gate" and get ready for "Cheney-gate." I'll gladly forgo the pleasure of seeing the president's chief political advisor frog-marched out of the White House for the prospect of seeing our vice president, along with his top staffers, led out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in handcuffs.
And if that happens, and maybe a little more, I hope that President Hastert will nominate Fitzgerald to the Supreme Court as a reward for saving this country (and probably several others). (Yeah, I know "President Hastert" doesn't sound very encouraging, but it beats "President Bush" or "President Cheney," or, God forbid, the fourth-in-line "President Rice.")

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Last Throes

Fuel truck bomb kills 98 in Musayyib, three more bombs today. Mayhem accomplished.

Follow the Uranium

Frank Rich writes an excellent op-ed about Rove v. Sane in today's NY Times.
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

So put aside Mr. Wilson's February 2002 trip to Africa. The plot that matters starts a month later, in March, and its omniscient author is Dick Cheney. It was Mr. Cheney (on CNN) who planted the idea that Saddam was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." The vice president went on to repeat this charge in May on "Meet the Press," in three speeches in August and on "Meet the Press" yet again in September. Along the way the frightening word "uranium" was thrown into the mix.

By September the president was bandying about the u-word too at the United Nations and elsewhere, speaking of how Saddam needed only a softball-size helping of uranium to wreak Armageddon on America. But hardly had Mr. Bush done so than, offstage, out of view of us civilian spectators, the whole premise of this propaganda campaign was being challenged by forces with more official weight than Joseph Wilson. In October, the National Intelligence Estimate, distributed to Congress as it deliberated authorizing war, included the State Department's caveat that "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa," made public in a British dossier, were "highly dubious." A C.I.A. assessment, sent to the White House that month, determined that "the evidence is weak" and "the Africa story is overblown."

AS if this weren't enough, a State Department intelligence analyst questioned the legitimacy of some mysterious documents that had surfaced in Italy that fall and were supposed proof of the Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. In fact, they were blatant forgeries. When Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said as much publicly in the days just before "shock and awe," his announcement made none of the three evening newscasts. The administration's apocalyptic uranium rhetoric, sprinkled with mushroom clouds, had been hammered incessantly for more than five months by then - not merely in the State of the Union address - and could not be dislodged. As scenarios go, this one was about as subtle as "Independence Day" and just as unstoppable a crowd-pleaser.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Stop the "war on terror!"

The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign - over 95 percent of all the incidents - has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.
-- Robert A. Pape, author of Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, as quoted by Xymphora. Xymphora adds:
The West's current problem with terrorism has only one solution, the withdrawal of Western troops from the Middle East and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Territories. Any time you read somebody writing about the necessity of fighting the 'war on terror', and of the dangers of 'appeasement', you are reading somebody who has a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with stopping terrorism, and everything to do with keeping the occupying troops in place. If it is so important to keep the troops in place - whether it be for American corporate control of the oil fields or the building of an Israeli Empire - the West is going to have to get used to accepting the cost of increasingly severe terrorist attacks. The 'war on terror' as conceived by the neocons is:
  • immoral, as it further punishes the victims of Western aggression;

  • insane, as it advocates stopping terrorism by increasing the activity that caused the terrorism in the first place; and

  • senseless, as it simply cannot be won.

From Ed Stein.

Any country which has to specify...

which President George Bush they mean is in some very deep Rove.

From Rob Rogers.

The joy of schadenfreude

From Mike Keefe.

From Doonesbury.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ten Easy Steps

Prison Planet explains how the British government could have staged the London attacks. As usual, Xymphora has lots of ideas, too. I especially like his statement that "every theory is a conspiracy theory, including the Official Story," mostly because it's pretty much what I've been saying.

Politics Kills

Juan Cole describes how the Repugs desire to steal John Kerry's "thunder" (more like a weak fart, but that's another story) at last year's Democratic convention by announcing the arrest of an al Qaeda-connected Pakistani may have contributed to the 7/7 London bombings:
For the sake of three year old intelligence, the Bush administration had helped blow the first inside double agent the Pakistanis and the British had ever developed. The British had been preparing a set of indictments and pursuing the investigation, in part by using Khan. They were forced to move before they were ready. Some suspects escaped on hearing Naeem Khan's in the media. Of those who were arrested, several had to be released for lack of evidence against them.

Muhammad Sadique Khan, one of the July 7 bombers, was apparently connected to one of the suspects under surveillance in early August, 2004.
Paul Krugman points out today that in America "truth is political:"
We're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.
The Bushies started the "war on terror" for political gain, and they are perfectly willing to undermine it for political gain whenever necessary.

Just a minor headline

Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if U.S. Intrudes
China should use nuclear weapons against the United States if the American military intervenes in any conflict over Taiwan, a senior Chinese military official said Thursday.

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," the official, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, said at an official briefing.
The NY Times considers this to be a less important story than George Pataki's exploration of a presidential run or Ahnuld's contracts with fitness magazines.
China has had atomic bombs since 1964 and currently has a small arsenal of land- and sea-based nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States, according to most Western intelligence estimates. Some Pentagon officials have argued that China has been expanding the size and sophistication of its nuclear bombs and delivery systems, while others argue that Beijing has done little more than maintain a minimal but credible deterrent against a nuclear attack.

Beijing has said repeatedly that it would use military force to prevent Taiwan from becoming a formally independent country. President Bush has made clear that the United States would defend Taiwan.

Many military analysts have assumed that any battle over Taiwan would be localized, with both China and the United States taking care to ensure that it would not expand into a general war between the two powers.

But the comments by General Zhu suggest that at least some elements of the military are prepared to widen the conflict, perhaps to persuade the United States that it could no more successfully fight a limited war against China than it could against the former Soviet Union.

"If the Americans are determined to interfere, then we will be determined to respond," he said. "We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Spy versus Spy

Via Billmon, I learn that Mark A.R. Kleiman has pretty clearly shown that while Karl Rove may get off on the charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which was designed to be hard to break, he may well be on the hook for espionage:
Rove's conduct certainly meets the far less demanding elements of the Espionage Act: (1) possession of (2) information (3) relating to the national defense (4) which the person possessing it has reason to know could be used to damage the United States or aid a foreign nation and (5) wilful communication of that information to (6) a person not entitled to receive it.

Under the Espionage Act, the person doing the communicating need not actually know that revelation could be damaging; he needs only "reason to know." Classification is generally reason to know, and a security-clearance holder is responsible for knowing what information is classified.

Nor is it necessary that the discloser intend public distribution; if Rove told Cooper -- which he did -- and Cooper didn't have a security clearance -- which he didn't -- the crime would have been complete.

And to be a crime the disclosure need not be intended to damage the national security; it is only the act of communication itself that must be wilful.

It's also a crime to "cause" such information to be communicated, for example by asking someone else to do so.
The prospect of Rove being charged as a traitor has Billmon charged up:
In my wildest, my most delightful dreams, I could not imagine that the guy who just three weeks ago was equating liberals with traitors could soon be facing trial as a . . . traitor. I mean, I wouldn't dare put something like that on my Christmas list. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.

Of course, even if Karl is indicted for espionage, he'll probably be offered plenty of chances to cut a deal. And even if he is convicted, he isn't likely to do any jail time. And even if he does do jail time, it's likely to be in the kind of country club prison where the toughest punishment is having your golf privileges revoked.

Still, it was a nice fantasy while it lasted, and I thank Mark for it. And who knows? Karl's luck could all go bad at sentencing time, and leave him in front of a judge who actually believes in a little law and order, instead of some liberal wuss.
Then again, we can hope that if he is allowed to cop a plea to a lesser charge, it will be on condition that he rat out his co-conspirators, particularly Dick and George. Now THAT would be sweet!

From Drew Sheneman.

Recruiter: So let's fill out the paperwork. Name?
McLellan: Scott McLellan.
Recruiter: Date of birth?
McLellan: I've said all that I'm going to say on that subject.
Recruiter: High school?
McLellan: The White House stands by its position that I did attend high school.
Recruiter: Current residence?
McLellan: That is part of an ongoing investigation, and it is my policy never to to discuss ongoing investigations.
Recruiter: Reason for joining the army?
McLellan: I'm tired of being evasive.

From Vic Harville.

Some victims matter, some don't

From Signe Wilkinson.

At Tuesday's All-Star game in Detroit, there was a moment of silence for the victims of the London attacks, and they played "God Save the Queen" before the game. Nothing for the many more victims of bombs and bullets, both insurgent and American, who died just in the past week in Iraq. Nor even for the 1000 or so US troops killed since the last All-Star game. Or, lest we forget, the over 100 Americans who die every day on our highways (and I believe the highway death toll worldwide is over 2000 a day). The "war on terror" is also a "war on perspective" and a "war on common sense." In those last two aspects aWol is winning, unfortunately. That idiot John Kerry played right into aWol's hands when he said at the Democratic convention last year that terrorism is the greatest threat we face. It is only in the sense that it puts absurd amounts of power into the hands of George W. Bush. As an everyday threat, terrorism should be a tiny, tiny concern.

From Mike Keefe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


From AP:

"This is a serious investigation," President Bush said today. "I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once this investigation is complete."

I'll bet if we had the video we could see Karl's lips move.

Commuter trains collide in Pakistan

This NY Times article describes a train crash in Pakistan this morning, which killed at least 123. Sympathies go out to the injured and the families of the dead. That said, the article raises a lot of questions.

The train crash took place at about 3:52 a.m. at a small railway station near Ghotki, a remote district about 370 miles northeast of Karachi in Southern Sindh province.
Admittedly, I know little about Pakistan. But would there really be THREE commuter trains, packed with hundreds of people, traveling through a "remote district" at 3:52 in the morning? A Nike sweatshop, or what? Also, a map of Pakistan shows that 370 miles northeast of Karachi would either be in the Punjab province of Pakistan or in India--certainly not "Southern Sindh province." Even if it were 370 kilometers, it's hard to see how it could be in Sindh province from the map.

And then there's this:
Investigators looking into the cause of the crash ruled out sabotage. 'There could be two causes of the accident: either the driver of the Karachi Express was asleep or he could not judge the signal," Chaudhry Nazeer, Divisional Superintendent of Railways Sukkur, said by telephone. The driver of the Karachi Express also died in the crash.
They're still pulling bodies from the wreckage, and they've already blamed it on "(dead) pilot error." Reminds me of the crash of American Airlines 587 in Rockaway Beach in November, 2001. Before the fires were out, Colin Powell was telling reporters it wasn't terrorism. (Four hours after the crash. The SECRETARY OF STATE! How the hell would he know?) Even if the Pakistani version of Powell is right--the driver could have been drugged (although where would you ever get drugs in Pakistan?) or the signal could have been unplugged or covered up so he didn't see it. Of course, there's no terrorism in Pakistan.

This article shows why it's so hard to know what's going on. Something bad happens, officials immediately try to obscure the truth, and the press rushes out articles full of obvious inaccuracies that ten minutes of googling could fix.

[Update]: Here's the AP story, which appears to have been the only source for the NY Times story. It includes the 370 miles northeast of Karachi. Yahoo, at least, has a map showing the location of the crash, from which I can see that they possibly mean 370 kilometers NE of Karachi. It doesn't show any large cities nearby which would explain the presence of three crowded commuter trains at 3:52 in the morning. I see from other captions in the Yahoo slide show that AP has already bought the official explanation: "Three trains crashed in a deadly chain-reaction after a train driver misread a signal." Because Pakistani officials, just like our own, would NEVER try to mislead the public or cover up anything.

Things can ALWAYS get worse

My niece asked me what I thought Bush would do about Karl Rove. I said that if history is any indication, Bush will promote him. Torture Gonzales goes to the Supreme Court and Rove becomes AG. His first act as AG will be to cancel the investigation into his crimes. Second will be to once again cover up the bare breast of the Spirit of Justice. Third will be to cover up everything else. After that, he may get a law degree from some offshore diploma mill.

From Ted Rall.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Globalism is yesterday's tomorrow

James Howard Kunstler pops Tom Friedman's flat bubble. Excerpt:
The public discussion over the global economy is symptomatic of America's new pandemic of brainlessness, the mainstream media especially. The head cheerleader, of course, has been Tom Friedman of the New York Times, author of The World Is Flat. Friedman and the rest of the cheerleading squad believe that that the global economy is a permanent institution. Now that it is established, we can only expect more of it. More and better. Forever.

What all these cretins seem to miss is the cold hard fact that today's transient global economic relations are a product of very special transient circumstances, namely, relative world peace and absolutely reliable supplies of cheap energy. Subtract either of these elements from the equation and you will see globalism evaporate so quickly it will suck the air out of your lungs.
Do you have any idea how desperate for oil both China and America are going to be in five years? Do you have a clue how tapped out America's WalMart shoppers are going to be as jobs vanish and the value of a dollar craters in the face of runaway energy prices?

Globalism is yesterday's tomorrow. The future is about living locally on a much smaller scale. Pepsi Cola and Exxon-Mobil are exactly the kind of gigantic enterprises that are going to wither and die over the next decade. China is not tomorrow's geopolitical colossus, it's a geopolitical super train wreck waiting to collide with the reality of its environmental devastation, population overshoot, and energy starvation. Americans will be lucky if they can do each other's laundry ten years from now, let alone sell massive amounts of soda pop to people twelve thousand miles away.

Okay, it's satire day!

From the web site's version of aWol's 6/28 speech:
Rummy and Dick are right. The insurgency is in its death throes, and will be that way for the next twelve years. Also: the terrorists in Iraq come from other countries, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, France, and Baghdad. But we are taking the fight TO the Iraqis – because only by shipping America's underprivileged to fight a war on a shoestring budget, and subjecting them to an environment so volatile that their only chance of survival is to slaughter anyone who so much as sneers at them, can we ever hope to give a whole new generation of Arabiac kiddies a reason to try and fly planes into our landmarks.

White House Cannot Confirm Ever Having Met Karl Rove

From Opinions You Should Have:
In a press conference yesterday, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan refused to confirm that the President knew a "Karl Rove" or that he had every come across anyone by that name.

"I will not comment upon whether the name is even vaguely familiar to me," said McClellan, saying that "the White House has a policy of not giving potentially damaging information to the public at any time."

McClellan received questions from reporters about an incident wherein Mr. Rove -- today the Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House -- compromised the nation's security in order to punish a former ambassador with whom he was displeased. In response, McClellan declined to say whether the President still had confidence in Rove, would not say whether the President had spoken to Rove about the "Plame incident," whether the President knew him, or had heard of him.

Finally, Mr. McClellan denied understanding the words "Karl Rove," merely shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders in a show of incomprehension.

The questioning soon turned to abuse, and reporters hurled threats, insults, and rolled-up newspapers at McClellan until he left the Briefing Room and was replaced by his assistant, Pamela Wiesenstadt.

Ms. Wiesenstatdt refused to confirm or deny the existence of any "Scott McClellan."

From J.D. Crowe.

Ha ha!

If there's something hopeful to be said about cannibals, it's that after having eaten a bunch of people, they develop a preference for human-fed human--that is, they start eating each other.

Actually, I have no idea if that's true, but it provides a colorful analogy for two current stories about two of the prominent "cannibals" who have been instrumental in the ongoing destruction of this country and the world.

The first concerns the "woman" who delivered Florida to the losing candidate in the 2000 election, Katherine Harris. From NewsMax (emphasis added):
Katherine Harris expected a pat on the back and enthusiastic support from the White House and the Republican Party when she ran for the Senate. Instead, supporters say she's gotten a "stab in the back."

The Harris camp is furious over reports that top Republicans are out to sabotage her campaign for the nomination by urging another Republican to oppose her in the primary.

"It's unimaginable that the White House folks and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) would be so disloyal to Katherine Harris, especially after all she has done for the Bush family and the Republican party," one angry supporter declared.

"It's unconscionable and a stab in the back."

Harris is the courageous former Florida secretary of state whose enforcement of ballot-certification rules clinched George Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential election.

She was elected to the House two years later and wanted to run for the U.S. Senate from Florida last year.

But as reported, the White House was said to have discouraged her candidacy, fearing it could rally Democrats bitter over the 2000 election and jeopardize President Bush's re-election chances.

She stepped aside - and Republican Mel Martinez won the Senate seat.

Now comes word that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and NRSC Chairwoman Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) have met with state House Speaker Allan Bense about seeking the Republican nomination.

"If it's true, they should be ashamed and embarrassed, considering she stepped aside at their request for the president and Martinez in 2004," the supporter told the publication The Hill.

"It's her turn."
I guess it all comes down to how much clout her pimp has. "Courageous." Sheesh! Did NewsMax call Monica Lewinsky "courageous?"

The second, more prominent story concerns the man who arguably has done more to destroy American democracy than anyone (with the possible exception of Harris), Karl Rove. Apparently his big-mouth lawyer engaged in a little macho posturing talking to the Wall Street Journal, and Time reporter Matthew Cooper used that as his get-out-of-jail card. From the NY Times:
Around 7:30 on Wednesday morning, Mr. Cooper had said goodbye to his son, resigned to his fate. His lawyer, Mr. Sauber, called to alert him to a statement from Mr. Luskin in The Wall Street Journal.

"If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source," Mr. Luskin told The Journal, "it's not Karl he's protecting."

That provided an opening, Mr. Cooper said. "I was not looking for a waiver," he said, "but on Wednesday morning my lawyer called and said, 'Look at The Wall Street Journal. I think we should take a shot.' And I said, 'Yes, it's an invitation.'"

In court shortly after 2, he told Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the Federal District Court in Washington that he had received "an express personal release from my source."
More on the Rove story from Josh Marshall and Xymphora.

As I recall from twelfth-grade English, the key to a Greek tragedy is that the hero is always brought down by his own character flaws. The Repugs running ruining this country are a virtual cornucopia of character flaws--so let's watch the tragedy play itself out as the cannibals start eating each other (in the literal sense of the word--I'm not talking about Jeff Gannon here).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Man-child in power

From Tom Engelhardt:
More than anything else, as I watched him that morning in Gleneagles, Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness that we had reached such a perilous moment with such a man, or really -- for here is my deepest suspicion -- such a man-child in power. Yes, he genuinely believes in his war on terror, even as he and his advisors use it to his own advantage. And yes, he's good at being, or rather enacting with all his being, the role of the War on Terror President. And yet there's something so painfully childlike in the spectacle of him. Here, after all, is a 59 year-old who loves to appear in front of massed troops, saying gloriously encouraging and pugnacious things while being hoo-ah-ed -- and almost invariably he makes such appearances dressed in some custom-made military jacket with "commander in chief" specially stitched across his heart, just as he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003 in a Navy pilot's outfit. Who could imagine Abe himself, that most civilian of wartime presidents, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Dwight D. Eisenhower, a real general, wearing such G.I. Joe-style play outfits?

Let's face it. George Bush likes dress-up. What a video game is to a teenager, the Presidency seems to be to this man. It's a free pass to the movies with him playing that brave warrior part. All in all, I'm afraid to say, it must be fun. When he so cavalierly said, "Bring ‘em on," he was surely simply carried away by the spirit of the game. What it wasn't, of course, was the statement of a mature human being, an adult.

I don't usually say such things, but there's something unbelievably stunted about all this. He and his top officials seem almost completely divorced from any sense of the actual consequences of their various acts and decisions. They live in some kind of dream world offshore of reality, which would perhaps not be so disturbing if they didn't also control the levers of power in what, not so long ago, was regularly referred to as the "lone" or "last superpower" or the globe's only "hyperpower."
It is perhaps an insult to children to compare the Bush administration to them, but I'm at a loss for images. I'm a deeply civil person. If I had my choice, like so many people in this world of ours, I would simply wash my hands of their apocalypts and ours. Unfortunately, that's not possible. Theirs, at least, are someone else's responsibility, but George and his malign fictional worlds are, it seems, mine.

The sad thing is that the truth is relatively simple. What people using terror in the fashion of London are quite capable of doing is killing and maiming randomly and in large numbers – and perhaps in the process revealing to us both how fragile and how strong our world actually is. What they are completely incapable of doing, no matter what George Bush says, is taking our liberties and freedoms away. They can't take anything away. Only we can do that.


Tell your member of the Chamber of People's Deputies that another "free trade" agreement is the third-to-last thing we need (after another war and another Bush presidency) right now. I told John Dingell, but he's already there.

The High Cost of Free Parking

That's the title of a new book by Donald Shoup. From the APA review:
Off-street parking requirements are devastating American cities. So says Shoup in this no-holds-barred treatise on the way parking should be.

Free parking, Shoup argues, has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion, but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for cars than for people, and why American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the world’s total oil production.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking, namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary.


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-- Albert Einstein

There is only one course of action. We will continue to take this fight to the enemy and we will fight until this enemy is defeated.
--aWol, today.

Actually, I think Bush intends to continue this fight until the enemy is...everybody.

I recently finished Russ Schneider's grimly moving Siege : A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942, which chronicles the lives of a few German soldiers caught in two bloody sieges during the most brutal conflict in history--the battle between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. Schneider points out that soldiers on both sides had guns pointed at them from both sides--from the "enemy" facing them across no-man's land, and from their own security forces should they try to desert, or in many cases just retreat. Two maniacs, Hitler and Stalin, trapping millions of hapless soldiers and civilians in their "never surrender" insanity. That's pretty much where we are now, although thankfully on a much smaller scale (for now), in the "war on terror" between George Whacko Bush and Osama bin Laden. There are lots of other courses of action, but our idiot, insane, inane pResident willfully chooses not to consider them.

Fallujacide Continues

It has been eight months since the post-election flattening of Fallujah, but apparently that wasn't enough:
U.S. Marines began an offensive sweep Saturday through fertile farmland south of Al-Fallujah in an attempt to disrupt suspected insurgent cells in the area. The offensive comes as insurgent attacks appear to be on the rise again in the city, once a stronghold for the guerrillas.

In the early-morning hours, about 350 Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and 100 Iraqi army soldiers rolled into the Zaidan area in armored vehicles. They approached from the eastern edge of the farming region, which lies immediately north of the Euphrates River, and slowly progressed westward. The area around Zaidan, 20 miles southeast of Al-Fallujah, is laced with irrigation canals that make the terrain treacherous for military vehicles.
What 7/7 was for London, every day is for Fallujah.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Quote du Jour

The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us.
--Robin Cook, former British foreign secretary who resigned in opposition to the Blair-Bush Project.


Attracting Attention

The solar shingles on my roof are getting some interested spectators:

In case you can't tell what that is up in the sky, here's a closeup:

My solar system is working pretty well now, although I quickly discovered that the cheap batteries I was trying to get by with were clearly inadequate. I've ordered new high-capacity deep-cycle batteries which should make it a dependable and robust system. Until they arrive, I'll be running on solar pretty much only when the sun is shining. Fortunately, that's a lot this time of year.


If I've learned anything in 3 1/2 years of blogging, it would be this: It is very hard to determine what the truth is, but much easier to know that someone is lying. As soon as George W. Bush started his bellicose rhetoric (for which he still receives craven praise from idiot Democrats and pundits) following 9/11--"You're either with us or you're with the terrorists;" "We make no distinction between terrorists and nations which harbor them"--I knew he was lying. I didn't know what the truth was; Bush didn't care what the truth was, and didn't bother to find out. The war plans for Afghanistan and Iraq were already drawn up, and 9/11 gave him the perfect excuse to put them into action. Never mind that the FBI never found any evidence linking the supposed hijackers to al Qaeda or Afghanistan, or that they shuffled the passenger lists to make sure that each plane had a hijacker/pilot. We were attacked, we wanted to attack Afghanistan, so Afghanistan was attacked. Evidence? We don't need no stinking evidence!

Another thing I've learned is that most conspiracy theories are false, and some are ridiculous. But few are more clearly false or ridiculous than the official stories from our government. A lone gunman shot JFK from two completely different directions within seconds. A guy hiding out in a cave in Afghanistan masterminded simultaneous hijackings in the US. Two planes crashing into the upper floors of two steel skyscrapers caused three buildings to collapse completely to the ground. The headquarters of the world's largest and most sophisticated military remains unprotected from one of its most obvious threats over half an hour after it was clear to everyone that the nation was under attack because of "incompetence." Now THOSE are absolutely absurd conspiracy theories.

It is still wise to be wary of conspiracy theories, if only because it is likely that the actual perpetrators of various atrocities launch many of these theories to confuse the issue and discredit the suspicious. Popular Mechanics "debunking" of several conspiracy theories about 9/11, most of which I hadn't heard before, was an example of the technique: Some 9/11 conspiracy theories are absurd, so anyone who believes ANY 9/11 conspiracy theory is a nut. All the White House has to do is get a Jeff Gannon-type to launch a web site claiming that 9/11 was caused by PMS-suffering Martian women intent on refuting the claim that women are from Venus, and then point to it and say "look at the conspiracy nuts."

All this, of course, is a prelude to introducing another "conspiracy theory." Mike sends me this link to an article which claims that the London subway bombings occurred just as a security drill preparing for subway bombings was in progress.
On a BBC Radio 5 interview that aired on the evening of the 7th, the host interviewed Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants, which bills itself as a 'crisis management' advice company, better known to you and I as a PR firm.

Peter Power was a former Scotland Yard official, working at one time with the Anti Terrorist Branch.

Power told the host that at the exact same time that the London bombings were taking place, his company was running a 1,000 person strong exercise which drilled the London Underground being bombed at the exact same locations, at the exact same times, as happened in real life.
The article describes the similarity of the London bombing to the 3/11/04 bombing in Madrid, and a 1980 bombing in Bologna, Italy, which was linked to Operation Gladio.

Again, I don't know how to verify all this. But watching the actions of Bush and Blair in response to these "attacks," how slowly they move to find out what actually happened and how quickly they move to take advantage of the situation, it is easy for me to reject the "official" story as the most absurd conspiracy theory of all.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Paul Craig Roberts on London

Blair and Bush are on their high horses claiming the morality of "civilized nations" and denouncing the retaliation they have provoked as "barbarism."

Their hypocrisy plays poorly in the world. Far more innocent Iraqi civilians, especially women and children, have been slaughtered than British and Americans. Why do Bush and Blair believe they should be praised for slaughtering civilians and only Muslims denounced?
The US and Britain started this fight, not Iraq. We should be ashamed that Bush and Blair deceived us, tricked us into a pointless and unjust war, and that innocent people on both sides are paying with their lives and limbs for Bush's and Blair's lies. Our real anger should be directed at Bush and Blair who are responsible for the deaths and destruction.

The American and British people had better wake up, depose their immoral leaders, and put a halt to this war.
The whole article.

Give it a rest?

Sorry, but for once I have to disagree with blogger extraordinaire Billmon. Last night, he posted:
Just for today -- or what's left of it -- can't we drop the politics and the armchair quarterbacking and treat this like the terrible human tragedy that is? Just this once?

I mean, I know that's too much to ask of the conservatives, but aren't we supposed to be better than that?
I'll admit that I don't know exactly WHAT to say, but I think that now is absolutely the wrong time to leave the playing field to the right-wing whack jobs. In September 2001, Bush was allowed, even encouraged, to turn a great tragedy into an even greater tragedy--the so-called "war on terror," which has already killed hundreds of thousands. Confused and angry people need to be reminded, RIGHT NOW, that other strategies were available, and that Bush's "strategery" isn't working out so well (unless you're a Halliburton stockholder or Osama bin Laden). Because Bush and Blair are intent on using yesterday's tragedy as an excuse to do more of the bloody same--more bombing, more restrictions on liberties, more macho BS. Voices against this madness need to be raised NOW.

The WSWS strongly condemns the bombings:
The criminal nature of these outrages is underscored by the fact that they occurred in a city that has been the scene of innumerable protests against imperialism and war. In February 2003, more than 1 million people marched in London to oppose the plans of the US and Britain to invade Iraq.

If it is to emerge that the bombings were carried out by an Islamic terrorist organisation, it would provide further bloody evidence of the reactionary and politically bankrupt character of such groups. Terrorism does not hinder imperialism. Rather, it spreads fear, anger, confusion and political disorientation—all of which play into the hands of the political elites in London and Washington and their pliant media.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

From David Horsey.

Quote du Jour

We know already that both in America and Israel the consequences of terror led the general public towards an endorsement of right wing zealously. I do hope that the British people will follow the Spanish public's reaction. Warmongers and militant aggressors must be ousted from our political climate. Only then peace will prevail.
-- Gilad Atzmon, writing from London today


The "war on terrorism" IS terrorism

Compare and contrast:
Said Bush: "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

"The war on terror goes on," he added.
--AP, today

He said it was unclear who was killed in the initial attack in the tiny village of Chechal. "Maybe some militants were killed, but I don't know," he said. "The 17 people were killed in the second bombing."

The U.S. military said the attack was carried out "with precision-guided munitions that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of enemy terrorists and noncombatants."

"The targeted compound was a known operating base for terrorist attacks in Kunar province as well as a base for a medium-level terrorist leader," it said. "Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."

The statement added U.S. forces "regret the loss of innocent lives and follow stringent rules of engagement specifically to ensure that noncombatants are safeguarded. However, when enemy forces move their families into the locations where they conduct terrorist operations, they put these innocent civilians at risk."
--AP, Tuesday, concerning a plane bombing in Afghanistan

(Remember: Plane bombing doubleplusgood, car bombing and suicide bombing doubleplusungood.)

And what, exactly, were the vast majority of the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in the Blair-Bush project guilty of? Who could possibly have "such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks?"

Note to wingnuts: I am NOT justifying terrorism. I am condemning the "war on terrorism" from a moral view because it IS terrorism, and from a practical view because it leads to more terrorism.

Michelle notes that the London attacks sound suspiciously like the work of Gladio, a group I've suspected of all sorts of evil ever since I learned of their existence yesterday reading Michelle's blog.

Some terror gets more coverage than others

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- U.N. troops raided the base of an illegal armed group in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil on Wednesday and at least five people were killed, witnesses and U.N. officials said.

More than 350 U.N. troops in armored carriers stormed a house where gang leader Emmanuel Wilme, known as Dread Wilme, was believed to have taken refuge, said Col. Eloufi Boulbars, a military spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
Why was the group "illegal?" Because they were supporters of the democratically-elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Turning history on its head, Reuters continues:
Aristide fled the country in February 2004 in the face of an armed revolt and under U.S. and French pressure to quit. He is living in exile in South Africa.
"Fled," as in "was kidnapped by the U.S. military and flown to Africa against his will."

From Doonesbury.

Peak oil update

Strange reaction

Oil prices dropped quickly after the apparent terror attacks in Longdon. Nymex crude had hit $62.10 last night, then fell as low as $57.20 after the explosions. It has since rebounded to $59.25. I guess maybe traders who were long on crude decided to take their profits before things got crazy, but it's hard to see how terror attacks in London could reduce demand, increase supply, or change the fact that a hurricane is headed for the Gulf coast. My guess is that that record high of $62.10 will be broken before the weekend.

Particularly barbaric

It is particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long term problems of climate change and the environment.
-- Tony Blair, reacting to the apparent terror attacks in London today.

He and aWol were much more thoughtful, scheduling the brutal March 20, 2003 attack on Iraq so as not to interfere with any meetings of the Sierra Club, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, UNHCR, CARE, the Rainforest Action Network, or any group meeting to try to deal with poverty in Africa or climate change and the environment.

Because that's just how unbarbaric they are.

(Actually, I didn't look that up--probably one or more of those groups were meeting. But they weren't the G8, which means they probably believe their own rhetoric, so they don't count.)

Without a doubt, the reaction to today's attacks will be exactly opposite of what is needed. There will be more senseless attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, more cutbacks on civil liberties--and the seeds will be planted for even more terror attacks. Rather than admitting that the "global war on terror" is a complete disaster only causing the problem it supposedly addresses, the G8'ers will insist that the GWOT be ratcheted up a few notches. In fact, Blair is already trying to do that:
It is important that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world," he said.

"Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.
Shorter Tony Blair: "We're even crazier than they are."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The critical question about Judith Miller

Does she play Mrs. Huber on "Desperate Housewives?"

Judith Miller of the NY Times, with Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine

Mrs. Huber of "Desperate Housewives."


We have a new record! And gasoline futures are up 11 cents on the day to a new record high of $1.79 per gallon (before distribution, taxes, etc).

From Pat Oliphant.


That's almost the record high for crude oil; futures prices for heating oil and unleaded gasoline have broken through their record highs today.

The Italian Connection

Sgrena. Ledeen. Gladio. Calipari. Plame. Yellowcake. Rocco Martino. Task Force 121.

I'll admit I can't wrap my mind around all of the fascinating stuff Michelle was blogging about yesterday: here, here, and here. Let me see if I can come up with a "shorter" Michelle:

The Italian warrants to arrest 13 supposed CIA agents for the abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan may actually be uncovering a parallel "intelligence" agency run by the White House known as Task Force 121, which is possibly the remnants of a NATO anti-communist terror organization known as "Gladio." The group may also have been behind the shooting of Italian intelligence agent Niccola Calipari in Baghdad earlier this year by US troops as he was escorting released Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena to the airport. The key neocon lunatic tying this together is Michael Ledeen, an admirer of Mussolini and the guy who said the US should attack everyone it doesn't like all at once after 9/11. These same madmen may well have been behind the forged documents which supposedly showed that Saddam was buying uranium from Niger, a forgery which our government has studiously avoided investigating.

Okay, that may not seem "shorter," but compared to the volume of information in Michelle's three posts (which I've read) and the numerous links (which I haven't yet), it is actually short. The gist seems to be that our government, now and for the past 60 years, has had shadowy groups operating in Europe and elsewhere to destabilize governments, including quite possibly our own, using lies, deception, and terror. Doesn't surprise me at all.


Apparently concerns about the upcoming hurricane season combined with increasing evidence that we're at peak oil are driving prices higher.


Shorter Billmon: Pretending that China buying Unocal is a crisis may precipitate a real crisis, since it could convince the Chinese that the billions of dollars they control aren't worth much if they aren't allowed to buy what they want--like oil companies.
Slightly longer Billmon:
It's completely insane (or utterly craven, or both) to obsess over the $18.5 billion purchase of a second-tier oil company, when China is buying up roughly that same amount in U.S. Treasury and agency securities every quarter. China's stockpile of Treasuries ($235 billion at the end of April) already equals almost 12% of all U.S. debt in foreign hands, and is growing nearly twice as fast as the global total.
The full uncut Billmon is here. Billmon is an excellent blogger, but the best thing about Billmon is that he calls the House of Representatives
the "Chamber of People's Deputies."

From Billmon.


From John Deering. Scarily enough, she(?) does--from right here in Ann Arbor:
A Connecticut native, Coulter graduated with honors from Cornell University School of Arts & Sciences, and received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School, where she was an editor of The Michigan Law Review.
I think [women] should be armed but should not [be allowed to] vote. No, they all have to give up their vote, not just, you know, the lady clapping and me. The problem with women voting -- and your Communists will back me up on this -- is that, you know, women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it. And when they take these polls, it's always more money on education, more money on child care, more money on day care.
-- Ann Coulter, Politically Incorrect, Feb. 26, 2001

From Dana Summers.

From Vic Harville.

From Emad Hajjaj.

Don't think he wouldn't

From Steve Benson.

From Tab.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Let me be the first...

To wish George W. Bush an absolutely MISERABLE 59th birthday. May he wake up and finally realize what a total jerk he is, and what horrible carnage he has caused. Then, go have some pretzels, George. Bring 'em on.

US out of central Asia

From AP:
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which groups Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, urged a deadline be set for withdrawal of the foreign forces from its member states in light of what it said was a decline in active fighting in Afghanistan.

The alliance's move appeared to be an attempt to push the United States out of a region that Moscow regards as historically part of its sphere of influence and in which China seeks a dominant role because of its extensive energy resources.

U.S-led military forces have been deployed at air bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to back up the anti-terrorist campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.

According to the U.S military, Uzbekistan hosts at least 800 U.S. troops, while 1,200 U.S.-led troops are in Kyrgyzstan.
This is all a charade, of course. I'm sure that the Russians and Chinese know that the bases in central Asia were one of the main goals of the war in Afghanistan and the "war on terror" in general--far more important (and successful) to the Bushies than capturing the tall bearded one. They're not going to give them up, just like they haven't given up the bases in Korea and Japan and Germany and Italy and Kosovo and Qatar and Kuwait and Iraq and...

Empire is as empire does.

Oh, Canada!

Toyota is building a new factory in Ontario, rejecting the bids of several U.S. states:
The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.
I taught Algebra in a private high school in Alabama for one year. The level of dedication to educational excellence, on the part of students and faculty alike, ranged from abysmal to non-existent. The attitude extended all the way through grad school. I signed up for an econ course that was part of an MBA program at Auburn University at Montgomery. At one point, the professor wrote "10x=100" on the board, and then wrote "x=10" below. About half the students in the class raised their hands, demanding to know how he did that. And a lot of them were real whiners after tests, too: "I thought it was going to be just about general concepts, not specifics." And this was an easy, easy course. These are your red-state voters.

There was another reason Toyota chose Canada:
In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.
Actually, Toyota joins the CEO's of GM and Ford in noting the competitive advantage that universal health care offers to business.

Xymphora has more on the Toyota plant, American education, and the sorry state of the American dream in general.

Continue the hype

CNN has a Then & Now article on Jessica Lynch. In it they repeat much of the hype surrounding her capture and "rescue" early in the Iraq war, only to add the more correct version in later paragraphs:
In July 2003, former POW Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch returned to her hometown of Elizabeth, West Virginia, a hero after her dramatic rescue from an Iraqi hospital by U.S. forces.
Her dramatic rescue nine days later from an Iraqi hospital made the petite blonde an instant celebrity.
But it soon became apparent that some of the facts surrounding her capture and rescue were stretched by the military.
And then there's this whopper:
Lynch said she thinks about members of her unit who died that day, especially best friend and roommate Lori Piestewa, the first American Indian woman killed in combat in U.S. history.
Maybe the first American Indian woman killed in combat AS a U.S. soldier, but there must have been hundreds (or thousands or more) American Indian women killed in combat BY U.S. soldiers, depending on how you define "in combat."

Merely insane will be seen as a compromise

Bionic Octopus sees the song and dance going on about the Supreme Court nomination. The loony right demands the moon and the stars, claiming that a neanderthal like Gonzales isn't conservative enough. The Dems can then beg aWol not to give in to the lunatics, and instead nominate a "moderate" like Señor Torture himself, Alberto Gonzales. Bionic Octopus (which I'll have to admit is a much cooler name for a blog than "Bob's Links and Rants") notes that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is already falling all over himself to jump into this trap.

Monday, July 04, 2005

From Doonesbury.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Solar project getting really, really, really close to finished!

The solar shingles are working very well, but with my inexpensive batteries I seem to have gotten what I paid for. The details.


Subcommandante Marcos is making waves in Mexico again. Here's the Zapatista plan:
Well, then, in Mexico what we want to create is an agreement with people and organizations that are decidedly of the left, because we believe that it is on the political left where the idea of resisting against neoliberal globalization really lives, and the struggle to make justice, democracy, and freedom in any country wherever it would be, where there is only freedom for big business and there is only democracy to put up election campaign signs. And because we believe that only the left can come up with a combat plan so that our country, Mexico, does not die.

And, then, what we believe is that, with these people and organizations of the left, we will chart a course to go to every corner or Mexico where there are humble and simple people like ourselves.

And we don’t come to you to tell you what you should do nor to give you orders.

Nor are we going to ask you to vote for a candidate, since we already know that the only candidates are neoliberals.

Nor are we going to tell you to do what we do, nor that you should rise up in arms.

What we are going to do is ask you how your lives are going, your fight, your thoughts about how our country is doing and about what we can do so that they don’t defeat us.
Lots of things make me mad these days, and one of the main things is the widespread acceptance of the idea that "free trade" and "globalization" are good things, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. American manufacturing workers know what "free trade" has done to their jobs, and the Zapatistas know that "free trade" is a disaster for the vast majority of the people in Mexico and the other neoliberal colonies. But many Americans don't realize that George Bush and John Kerry and Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney are all on the same WRONG side of this issue--they work for the corporations, NOT for the vast majority of the people in any country.

So I'm pulling for the Zapatistas and all of the other groups in Latin America and elsewhere who are rising up to stop the neoliberal "free trade" agenda, because if they wait for norteamericanos to finally wake up and put a stop to this crime, it will almost certainly be too late.

Different quagmire, same old rhetoric

Daniel Ellsberg ruefully notes that he wrote a speech similar to the one aWol gave last week--40 years ago for LBJ.

Macho kills

I’m often asked whether there aren’t big differences between the Iraq War and Vietnam. And I’m always quick to say, of course, there are differences. In Iraq, it’s a dry heat. And the language that none of our troops or diplomats speak is Arabic rather than Vietnamese.
That's from a fabulously depressing essay by Daniel Ellsberg (via WIIIAI).

More excerpts:
It was very hard to exit Vietnam, to end the American war in Vietnam. And there was no guarantee that it would end in 10 years from 1965, as it did. It was likely to have gone on much longer, and would have without a combination of Congressional pressure, pushed by public pressure, and luck of various kinds, including the revelations of Watergate.

I believe it will be much harder and longer to get out of Iraq. There was no oil in Vietnam. Our need for bases in that area was not what we perceive our need for bases in the Middle East to be.
We are the problem that unifies resistance forces.

The unity of resistance forces right now is on one thing and that is American occupation. That doesn’t make for a peaceful Iraq, ever. In fact, it precludes the possibility of a peaceful Iraq.

Our administration says our duty is to stay there, that we owe them our presence, which is false. We owe them a lot in the way of money and reconstructions but not our presence. It only oppresses them, really.

People who call for getting out now will be called defeatists, appeasers, losers, weaklings, or cowards. They won’t be called pro-communist now, but they will be called pro-terrorism, pro-Osama bin Laden, which is ironic because as was foreseen by such administration experts as Richard Clarke, in the government, the occupation of Iraq day by day strengthens the forces of al-Qaida; it’s the opposite of what’s being said now.

To get out, they’ll say you’re for terrorism, you’re for defeat.

I want to say this as an analogy toward Vietnam. We can’t move toward what we should do, which is getting out as soon as we can. You can’t move in that direction, without being willing to be charged with calling for defeat and failure and weakness and cowardice. And that just rules it out for most people.

I would say that many, I could say thousands, but it’s really hundreds of thousands, and when we include the Vietnamese, millions, have died in the last century because American politicians were unwilling to be called names. They were unwilling to face, however invalid, however ridiculous, the charge that they were weak, unmanly, cowardly, defeatist, losers, and whatnot.

We were lied into Iraq the same way we were lied into Vietnam, even though the war initially, the blitzkrieg phase, looked very different. The war is now looking very similar. Kennedy and Byrd, two Senators who were still there who had voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution, pleading with their fellow senators both said “I am ashamed of what I did almost 40 years ago. Don’t live with that for the rest of your lives.” Most of them will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.

That is the kind of courage that is needed. The courage to say that we need to get out. The courage to speak the truth. That will save us and the Iraqis from the occupation.
He's right. Very few in Congress have the courage it takes to be called wimps. And I think if you removed the word "American" from the paragraph I highlighted, you could probably attribute over 100 million deaths in the 20th century to the same "afraid to be called a wimp" syndrome on the part of German, British, French, Russian, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Iraqi, Iranian, Cambodian, Somalian and probably 100 other countries' politicians. Once the blood and testosterone get flowing, it seems to require far less courage to wave the flag and join the mayhem, even up to risking one's own life, than it does to object and refuse to play along.

Benedict Karl

I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors. -- George H. W. Bush, April 16, 1999

Well, it appears that Karl Rove was the traitor who exposed the name of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak, Matt Cooper and other journalists. Lawrence O'Donnell says that he has known it was Rove for months, but that Cooper's notes which Time turned over to the "Justice" Department will reveal Rove as the source.

Interesting how the Bushies managed to turn White House treason into an assault on first-amendment rights. Both Karl Rove and Judith Miller belong in prison, but there was no excuse for doing it this way, except to steal another election. Miller belongs in prison for her blatant lying in the NY Times about supposed Iraqi WMD's before and even after the illegal invasion. She does not belong in jail for protecting a source, even Karl Rove. And neither Miller nor Cooper published anything based on Rove's treason, while Robert Novak used it on the air and wasn't charged with anything.

Let's just hope this backfires in Bush's idiot face big time, but I'm not holding my breath. He's been obviously guilty of much larger crimes for over two years, and he's still prancing around in the White House.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

How many US service members killed in Iraq?

1750 or so, or 9000? This article suggests that deaths in German hospitals, or in transit to them, have not been counted.

Sold to the highest bidder

USA Today points out how the millions of dollars that big corporate interests invested in Repuglican candidates last year are paying billions of dollars in dividends through sleazy legislation and regulatory decisions made by these same Repugs. Bob Harris points out that a really successful business venture might yield a 40% return on investment, whereas buying politicians seems to offer 1000% return or more.

From John Cole.

From Joe Heller.

Talk about being out of touch with reality

From Gary Varvel, one of the more neanderthal cartoonists out there. He left out Iraq saying "Now f**k off!" And the hubris of showing our very imperfect 216-year-old "democracy," built on the land and bones of Native Americans and the backs of slaves, as the adult, while the 3000-year-old Mesopotamian civilization is the baby--sheesh! And even if you accept Iraq as a baby--a happy baby? You've got to be doing some serious drugs to see it that way.

From Jim Morin.

From R. J. Matson.

Friday, July 01, 2005

And I was just beginning to like her...

You probably won't hear this anywhere else: Sandra Day O'Connor is resigning from the Supreme Court. As her replacement, President Bush is expected to nominate a moderate acceptable to all sides who will sail through confirmation in minutes.

The usual crowd

The House passed a resolution expressing "grave disapproval" of the recent Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London which said that local governments could use eminent domain to take property, even for private development. The vote was 365 in favor, 33 against, with 18 presents and 17 not voting. The yeas were your usual crowd--Tom DeLay, Dennis Kucinich, James Sensenbrenner, Cynthia McKinney, Katherine Harris, John Conyers, etc. Strangely, 32 or the 33 nays were Democrats, including my own Rep. John Dingell. Also strangely, the libertarian anti-war Republican Ron Paul of Texas voted "present." Not so strangely, minority leader Nancy Pelosi once again demonstrated her dynamic leadership by not voting.

I guess I'll have to try harder, maybe by writing Dingell a letter, to find any justification for supporting the Supremes' decision in this case. (I guess I could read the majority opinion from the Court, but I don't think I want to work THAT hard!) The only argument I can come up with so far for supporting the decision is that DeLay opposes it, so there must be something right with it.

Guilty of the crime of journalism

No charges, no trial--just a bullet to the head. From the WSWS:
On June 24, Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, was killed by a single bullet to the head as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. It is believed that the shot was fired by an American sniper. According to eyewitnesses, no warning shots were fired.

The US military has announced it is conducting an investigation into Salihee’s killing. Knight Ridder has already declared, however, that “there’s no reason to think that the shooting had anything to do with his reporting work”. In fact, his last assignment gives reason to suspect that it was.

Over the past month, Salihee had been gathering evidence that US-backed Iraqi forces have been carrying out extra-judicial killings of alleged members and supporters of the anti-occupation resistance. His investigation followed a feature in the New York Times magazine in May, detailing how the US military had modeled the Iraqi interior ministry police commandos, known as the Wolf Brigade, on the death squads unleashed in the 1980s to crush the left-wing insurgency in El Salvador.

The Wolf Brigade was recruited by US operatives and the US-installed interim government headed by Iyad Allawi during 2004. A majority of its officers and personnel served in Saddam Hussein’s special forces and Republican Guard—veterans of killings, torture and repression. The unit has been used against the resistance in rebellious cities such as Mosul and Samarra, and, over the past six weeks, has played a prominent role in the massive crackdown ordered by the Iraqi government in Baghdad codenamed “Operation Lightning”.

On June 27, Knight Ridder published the results of its inquiry in an article jointly written by Salihee and correspondent Tom Lasseter. The journalists “found more than 30 examples in less than a week” of corpses turning up in Baghdad morgues of people who were last seen being detained by the police commandos.
There was discussion early this year about the US government considering a "Salvadoran option" for dealing with the insurgency in Iraq; Max Fuller suggests that the Salvadoran option has become the Salvadoran reality.


Zeynep of Under the Same Sun has been attending the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul. You can read all about it at UtSS. Here is a summary of the charges brought by the Tribunal:
On the basis of the preceding findings and recalling the Charter of the United Nations and other legal documents, the jury has established the following charges against the Governments of the US and the UK:

• Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.

• Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure

• Using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon systems

• Failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during military activities and during the occupation period thereafter

• Using deadly violence against peaceful protestors

• Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective punishment

• Subjecting Iraqi soldiers and civilians to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment

• Re-writing the laws of a country that has been illegally invaded and occupied

• Willfully devastating the environment

• Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been degraded

• Failing to protect humanity’s rich archaeological and cultural heritage in Iraq

• Obstructing the right to information, including the censoring of Iraqi media

• Redefining torture in violation of international law, to allow use of torture and illegal detentions

The Jury also established charges against the Security Council of United Nations for failing to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity among other failures, against the Governments of the Coalition of the Willing for collaborating in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, against the Governments of Other Countries for allowing the use of military bases and air space and providing other logistical support, against Private Corporations for profiting from the war, against the Major Corporate Media for disseminating deliberate falsehoods and failing to report atrocities.

Speaking of Kunstler...

James Howard Kunstler yesterday repeated his ridiculous argument for the war in Iraq that he made in his book: "the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found does not mean that we didn't have to look."

Fortunately, plenty of his regularly readers wrote lengthy rebuttals in the comments so I didn't have to. It is disconcerting when someone who usually writes so convincingly and sometimes brilliantly puts forward such an obviously lame argument. Yes, theoretically, one doesn't know for sure that nothing is there until one looks. But the UN was looking, the evidence that Iraq actually had WMD's was all dubious, and even administration officials (Powell and Rice) had concluded (prior to the drumbeat for war) that Iraq was not a threat.

Vietnam is the best case scenario

Xymphora is a blogger who makes James Howard Kunstler seem like an optimist (and Kunstler makes ME seem like an optimist). Xymphora quotes what he calls the "intelligent American position" coming from Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute. Diamond says:
To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world.

Make no mistake about it: While Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam, they also want their country back. Only if we make it clear that we will withdraw our military forces when Iraq is stable will we create the political context in which Iraq can once again become secure. The alternative would leave us mired indefinitely in a violent quagmire in Iraq.
To which Xymphora adds:
This is key, and is perhaps the main reason why the United States is doomed. The American government will never give up those bases, will thus never end the insurgency, and will have to watch Iraq turn into Vietnam. To emphasize just how bad things are, Vietnam is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario, and one that is far more likely, is World War III in the Middle East.
It is, after all, what both Bush and bin Laden want.

From Ken Catalino.

From Paul Conrad.

From Dwane Powell.

From Randy Bish.

From Joe Heller.